What Does It Mean To Have A Record Expunged In Washington?
When people say “expunged,” they usually mean vacated.
Vacating a conviction for a misdemeanor crime means the court determines that the person has complied with all the conditions previously set. If they initially had pled guilty to a crime, the plea would be changed to not guilty, and then the charges are dismissed. If the defendant was found guilty after a trial, the court may set aside the original verdict, dismiss the case, and vacate the judgment and sentence. It’s a way to take a guilty plea or guilty finding off one’s record.
How does having a record sealed compare with having a record expunged or vacated?
Sealing a court record in Washington is incredibly difficult, because when something is sealed it’s no longer be available to the public. The Washington State Supreme Court has generally held a belief in open access to court records, so getting something sealed is almost impossible. Vacating or expunging, on the other hand, removes the guilty plea. The case isn’t deleted but the defendant can say they weren’t convicted of a crime.
Who is eligible to file for an expungement or to have a record vacated?
Separate processes exist for vacating a misdemeanor or a felony.
State residents may have only one misdemeanor vacated in their lifetime, using a 10-step test. They qualify for a record vacation of a misdemeanor if:
- They pled guilty to, or were found guilty of, a misdemeanor.
- No pending charges for any crime exist in in any court.
- They have completed all their probation requirements.
- They have paid off all their fines.
- It’s been at least three years since probation was completed and the fines were paid off.
- They haven’t pleaded to, or been found guilty of, any new crimes since being sentenced for the misdemeanor they want to vacate.
- They’ve never had another misdemeanor vacated.
- They are not the restrained party in any domestic violence protection order, no-contact order, anti-harassment order, or civil restraining order, nor have they had one within the past five years.
- The misdemeanor isn’t for a DUI, operating a railroad or vessel while intoxicated, or a few other rare offenses.
- For those trying to vacate a domestic violence misdemeanor, they can’t have another domestic violence conviction stemming from a previous incident.
If all 10 steps hold true, then the person may be eligible. It’s up to the discretion of the judge.
The rules for felonies are similar, with some notable exceptions. An unlimited number of felonies technically may be expunged if the person qualifies by meeting these seven criteria:
- They must have pled guilty to, or been found guilty of, a felony.
- They don’t have any pending charges for any crime in any court
- They’ve completed probation.
- They’re paid off all fines.
- It’s been at least five years since sentencing conditions were completed for a Class C felony, or 10 years for a Class B felony.
- They haven’t pleaded guilty to, or been found guilty of, any new crimes since completing the sentencing conditions.
- The conviction was not for a felony DUI or physical control, any Class A felony, or any violent offense, which is defined by statute.
If these all hold true, then the person may be eligible to expunge their felony.
What is the process for filing for an expungement In Washington?
If a resident is determined to qualify, and they hire an attorney to handle it, then their attorney will do all the paperwork. The individual doesn’t have to go to court at all. It’s usually a relatively quick turnaround time of 60 to 90 days. It’s a very easy process, if one qualifies.
Will I ever have to admit that I was convicted of a crime if my record Is successfully expunged?
If the record is vacated or expunged, then the individual can legally say that they’ve never been convicted of a crime. One key drawback: the court record may remain available. However, being able to say that they’ve never been convicted of a crime can be a huge benefit for many individuals.
For more information on Having a Record Expunged in Washington, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (253) 201-2001 today.
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