Criminal Records

Clearing Your Past Criminal Record

We’ve all made mistakes in life, and for some, that means being left with a criminal record. If you can relate, you’re not alone – 77 million Americans are walking around right now with a criminal record, looking for a fresh start and, more than anything, a path forward without a stupid mistake made years ago hanging over their head. If this sounds familiar, the best action is to reach out to a Washington Expungement Lawyer to help clear your criminal record.

How to Clear a Criminal Record in WA

Even if you were never charged or convicted of a crime, searching public records could indicate that you have a criminal record. If you’ve ever had your data taken by the police and were placed under legal arrest, this information becomes part of the public record – a record can follow a person throughout the rest of their lives.

A criminal record can impact someone’s ability to get a job or work in certain professions requiring special licenses. It can affect their ability to secure housing and pursue an education. For these reasons and countless others, thousands of people seek to get their criminal record expunged or vacated every year with the help of a Washington expungement lawyer.

Getting a criminal record cleared sounds like an excellent way for people caught up in the justice system to escape the revolving door. But what does it mean to “expunge” a criminal record? And what’s the difference between being “expunged” and “vacated”? Skilled Washington expungement lawyers on our team can answer these questions and more. But to get an idea of what you might be in for seeking a criminal conviction to be expunged or vacated In Washington state, here is some information you may find helpful.

What does it mean to “expunge” a conviction?

In the legal context, when a criminal record is expunged, it is deleted from your record entirely. When a criminal conviction record is expunged, it is destroyed from state or federal records or sealed from view. This is done under an expungement order that directs the court of the presiding jurisdiction to treat the conviction as if it had never occurred. Expungements are common in juvenile court proceedings but are rare in federal and most adult state courts.

Individuals convicted of a crime will eventually want to try to remove that conviction from their criminal record. Most people seeking to clear their records may look for expungement, but they likely won’t qualify. However, they may be eligible to vacate their conviction with the help of a skilled Washington expungement lawyer.

What does it mean to “vacate” a conviction?

When a court “vacates” a conviction, it removes the guilty finding and dismisses the charge. The court reverses the conviction. Vacating a conviction is helpful but does not erase the information from wherever you may find it. This is especially true in the digital age. However, it does provide some protection to you.

The most important of those protections is the legal right to tell anyone, including a potential employer or landlord, that you have not been convicted of a crime and do not have a criminal record.  A Washington expungement lawyer can explain this to you in more detail and whether you would qualify to vacate your past conviction.

Can I Expunge My Criminal Record in Washington?

No. There is no process to remove or delete (expunge) an adult criminal conviction in the state of Washington, regardless of whether it is a felony, gross misdemeanor, or misdemeanor. Non-conviction data may be expunged, but most won’t qualify for this unique situation. Although you cannot erase your adult criminal convictions, you may be able to vacate them.

Can I Vacate my Criminal Record in Washington?

In July 2019, Washington state adopted the New Hope Act. This law made it easier to vacate criminal convictions within the jurisdiction, increased the types of misdemeanor convictions eligible for vacating, and allowed multiple misdemeanors to be vacated all at once.

There are certain crimes Washington courts will not allow to be vacated. For example, sex offenses cannot be vacated with one single exception: a convicted sex offender can vacate a conviction for failing to register as such. Violent crimes and attempts to commit violent offenses are also not eligible to be vacated. To find out if your past crimes are either eligible or prohibited from being vacated, call a defense attorney for a quick and free consult.

How to Vacate a Misdemeanor in Washington State

As any Washington expungement lawyer can explain, misdemeanors are generally offenses that are punishable by no more than one year in jail or a fine of $5000. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor in Washington State, you may request your criminal record to be vacated if:

  1. at least three years have passed since you completed all terms of the criminal sentence, including court costs and fines;
  2. you have no criminal charges pending or have been convicted of any new crimes in any state or federal court;
  3. you do not currently have domestic violence no contact or anti-harassment order against you; and
  4. your conviction was not for a DUI, sex offense, or a violent crime.

How to Vacate a Felony in Washington State

Felony offenses are serious crimes. As a result, getting a felony vacated in Washington State can be more challenging than getting a misdemeanor record vacated. For example, a person convicted of a Class A felony cannot have their record vacated in Washington State. Even so, someone convicted of a felony in Washington State may seek a vacation order with the help of a Washington expungement lawyer if:

  1. Your felony conviction was committed on or after July 1, 1984;
  2. You have no criminal charges pending against you in any state or federal court;
  3. If you were convicted of a class B felony, you have had no other criminal convictions anywhere in the past ten years.  At least ten years have passed since the later of your release from custody or your sentencing date; 
  4. If you were convicted of a class C felony, you have had no other criminal convictions anywhere in the last five years.  At least five years have passed since the later of your release from custody or your sentencing date; And 
  5. Your conviction is not barred by statute. Click here for a complete list of felonies in Washington that cannot be vacated.

How much does an expungement attorney cost?

The cost to vacate your record depends on the number of criminal convictions and the number of courts those convictions are in. Our fee is determined by how complicated or complex your situation may be. On the low end, most prices in Washington State start at around $1,500 for an expungement attorney to handle the process from start to finish for one criminal conviction.   

When should I contact an attorney to clean up my criminal record?

How much is your time worth? If you have the time and patience, you can do this without an attorney. You can find the forms and some instructions you need to vacate your criminal conviction here.

However, if you’re unsure of the next steps or you don’t have time to wave through arduous layers, including legal requirements, service and filing specifications, restrictions, do’s and don’ts – and so forth, it’s time to reach out to an experienced Washington State expungement attorney.

Our team can help you make sense of the chaos from the start, save you time and money, and ensure you’re on the right path to unburdening yourself from the challenges of carrying a criminal record.