Expunging a Conviction in Washington State

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 Does Washington State Permit the Sealing of Criminal Records?

Certain criminal conviction records may be sealed or purged in the state of Washington.

Under Washington state law, expungement is “vacating a judgment.” If the offense satisfies the requirements and certain conditions are met, these statutes permit the vacating of certain misdemeanors and felonies. When a criminal record is cleared, it’s as if the offense never happened.

What Conditions Must Be Met for Expungement?

A few conditions must be met to qualify for expungement, such as:

  • There are no active criminal cases against the person in Washington or any other state.
  • The person had a juvenile conviction on their record, but they are now at least 18 years old.
  • After the conviction, the individual went a predetermined amount of time without receiving another criminal conviction.

It is important to remember that not all offenses, especially sex offenses, are eligible for expungement.

How Can Your Criminal Record Be Cleared?

The answer will mostly rely on state law and the nature of the alleged act.

A criminal record can be expunged by taking some of the actions listed below:

  • To determine what offenses and other criteria are essential to be eligible for expungement, one needs to review local laws first.
  • If they appear eligible, a person can ask the court to expunge their record by submitting the required documentation and following the guidelines established by state legislation.

The court will review the person’s criminal history after obtaining the files to determine whether they are eligible for expungement.

The court may also conduct a hearing to discuss its conclusions. Although it is not usually required, attending the hearing is in the individual’s best interests. The court has the authority to require attendance at the hearing. The court will typically decide whether to approve or reject the request for record clearance during the hearing.

What Takes Place if I Have My Criminal Record Expunged?

A person who has had their conviction erased can typically lawfully claim they were never found guilty of a crime in practically any circumstance. A person can legally respond that they have never been convicted of a crime if asked about it when applying for a job.

However, there are exceptions to this rule because some jobs demand that applicants disclose all convictions, even those that have been expunged. These positions could require child care, specific government positions, or something similar.

What Distinguishes Record Sealing from Expungement?

The primary distinction between record sealing and expungement is that if records are sealed, criminal records “still remain.” The documents and records are still present; employers and others cannot access them. When a person becomes 18 years old, their juvenile criminal records are often sealed as part of routine procedures (though they can sometimes still be accessed via court order).

Comparatively, expungement involves the real elimination or erasure of criminal charges and arrest records, making it appear like they never happened. It could be more challenging to have some charges dismissed than others. For instance, petty charges are typically easier to have dismissed than felonies.

The sort of offense involved might frequently affect eligibility for such processes.

Can a Juvenile Record Be Expunged?

In many places, but not all, juvenile criminal records are automatically expunged. You ought to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who focuses on sealing juvenile records. Only individuals with a spotless criminal record throughout the intervening years are eligible for an expungement. Individual courts may have their own processes for youth expungements.

Who Is Eligible for Record Expunction or Sealing?

Once more, the laws governing whether a person’s record is eligible for sealing or expungement vary. The court may seal or expunge the record voluntarily for certain offenses. However, a person would need to fulfill certain requirements.

Here are a few instances:

  • A predetermined amount of time has passed since the stipulations of the plea or conviction were fulfilled;
  • If the perpetrator was sentenced to probation, parole, or completed their entire jail or prison term;
    whether the crime was committed with or without violence;
  • There are no current allegations against the person; and
  • Whether a written request for record sealing was sent to the court where the conviction occurred.

A juvenile record will only be sealed or expunged if the person stays out of problems with the law for a predetermined time after adulthood. In some cases, former juvenile offenders must file a motion to do so.

The offender often files for record sealing or expungement with the same court where the case was brought. A petition for sealing or expungement often applies to just one instance. As a result, separate applications must be submitted if a person wants to seal or purge several records.

The judge next reviews the petition to determine the applicant’s eligibility; each court may have its own processes for record sealing or expungement.

Can Misdemeanors Be Removed from a Criminal Record?

Misdemeanor offenses are typically less serious offenses that are only punished by a fine or a term of less than a year in county jail (not a prison facility). A person’s record can be cleared of the majority of offenses.

Misdemeanor convictions that are frequently overturned include:

  • Traffic offenses, particularly first-time DUI or drunk driving charges;
  • Various offenses without violence;
  • Simple offenses involving theft;
  • Vandalism and trespassing; and
  • Opposing an arrest.

An individual’s criminal record can be cleared with a misdemeanor expungement. Certain sanctions cannot be reversed, such as restoring the right to own a gun or removing a person from a list of sex offenders.

Can a Felony Be Expunged from Your Criminal Record?

A felony is a more serious offense that carries a sentence of more than a year in imprisonment (as opposed to a county jail) and heftier fines or fees. It is more challenging to clear a felony charge than a misdemeanor one.

It is commonly accepted that the likelihood of a felony being erased from a person’s record decreases with the severity of the offense. More serious crimes typically result in longer sentences and greater fines.

Typically, non-violent misdemeanors like drug possession are more likely to qualify for expungement than serious felonies. Typically, sexual offenses like rape and sexual assault, felonies with victims under the age of 18, and other offenses of a similar type cannot be purged.

Not to mention, federal crime convictions cannot typically be overturned. Pardons for federal felonies may occasionally be granted (though this usually happens under very limited circumstances).

Information Regarding Record Sealing or Expungement

It is crucial to remember that:

  1. Expunction is not possible for a lot of felonies.
  2. Record sealing is not permitted for almost all sexual offenses.
  3. Typically, juvenile offenses or misdemeanors are eligible for expungement.

In some places, the original sealed conviction may still be utilized to increase the harshness of a subsequent sentence, even when records are sealed.

Do I Need an Attorney?

A defendant must apply with the court expressing their intention to have a conviction overturned to have it expunged. This process can be intricate and necessitate filing numerous papers and court appearances.

It makes sense to seek legal counsel from a Washington state expungement attorney. You may get your life back on track by having this procedure go as soon as possible with the aid of a local expungement attorney.


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