Vacating your Criminal Conviction in Washington state

  1. Is your conviction a felony or a misdemeanor?

Different statutes and different courts determine whether to vacate a conviction depending on whether that conviction is a felony (see RCW 9.92.066, 9.95.240 and 9.94A .640) or a misdemeanor (RCW 9.96) or a juvenile offense. The defendant’s sentencing court is normally the court that shall hear a motion to vacate a conviction. In addition to vacating your conviction, you may seek to seal the record of your conviction and should examine the date of your offense since the laws on this issue is different for some offenses that occurred before 1985.

  1. Can any felony be vacated from a criminal record? Can any misdemeanor be expunged from a record?

post3aThe short answer to both questions is “no.” Violent offenses and felonies identified as a “crime against a person” normally remain on a person’s criminal record. As far as misdemeanors, expungements are normally not allowed for DUIs or related offenses and sex offenses if you have had another conviction vacated. Whether it be a felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction, a defendant must have completed their sentence and have no pending criminal charges (and wait the specific statutory waiting period) before being eligible to have their conviction vacated from their record. As far as juvenile offenses, you may seek to seal the record after the statutory set waiting period unless your offense was a sex offense or a Class A felony or you did not pay the court ordered restitution, and there are no proceedings pending against you you and you have complied with all other requirements of the law.

  1. Does a deferred sentence automatically result in an expungement of the charge?

The short answer is again “no.” While a dismissal following a deferral is a legitimate basis to tell a prospective employer you were never convicted of the charged crime–a deferral can show up on some criminal background checks is not the equivalent to the conviction being expunged.

As a judge, I saw too many people seeking to have their convictions vacated and using the forms they obtained from the state’s form bank but not having the necessary supporting documentation. post3bAs a lawyer, I have encountered too many people that waited to get their conviction vacated when it caused a problem in their professional life and years after they could have gotten relief.

Besides the RCWs, useful information on this subject is available at GR 15 of the Washington Court Rules and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 446-16-025 & WAC 446-16-030

So in other words, there are ways that you can erase your history from the records so to speak, but in order to do that, you need to behave in the best possible manner literally. The law doesn’t want to punish people for the sake of punishment. Rehabilitation is the most important thing in Criminal and other laws. So if you do commit a felony or a misdemeanor, there are certain rules that need to be followed if you want to be erased from the record. Be as it may, different states have different rules which is normal. In order to turn the odds on your side, you will need to make sure that you hire a good lawyer that knows the law and of course who knows the courts common practice.

About the author

Jacquelyn Smith