In the realm of criminal offenses, few carry the weight and stigma quite like a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction. Once a DUI goes on your record, it can cast a long shadow over various aspects of your life, from employment opportunities to personal relationships. In Washington State, like many other states across the nation, individuals who have been convicted of a DUI often wonder if there’s a way to wipe the slate clean and regain a sense of normalcy. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will delve into all you need to know about DUI expungement Washington State. Whether you can get it off your record or not.
What Does It Mean To Have A DUI Expunged?
The legal process of expunging a DUI from your criminal record is known as DUI expungement. Drivers who have just been convicted of DUI are likely to research their options for DUI expungement.
It’s only reasonable to desire to have a DUI expunged if feasible because DUI convictions have such a bad reputation and can have a lasting impact on a person’s life. But in Washington, is it possible to get a DUI expunged?
Dui Expungement Washington State
A conviction for a specific misdemeanor or high misdemeanor may be overturned or “expunged” under Washington law. A conviction that is overturned releases the offender from any fines or restrictions that followed the conviction. When a conviction is overturned from the record, it is removed from the individual’s criminal history. The individual may legitimately respond, if questioned, that he was not convicted of that crime, for instance on housing or work applications. Certain convictions can be overturned in the criminal traffic arena, but not others. Convictions for DUI (RCW 46.61.502) and Physical Control (46.61.504) are currently irrevocable, which is unfortunate.
DUIs are treated quite seriously in Washington State, and the regulations reflect this. While having a DUI is quite frequent, and many jurisdictions allow expungements of criminal records connected to a DUI after a specific amount of time, Washington state does not.
Can You Get A DUI Expunged In Washington State?
No. DUIs cannot be wiped off a driver’s record, per § 9.96.060 of the Washington Revised Code. So, regrettably, a driver’s DUI convictions won’t be able to be expunged from their criminal record. While many drivers in Washington State find this aggravating, there are good reasons why DUIs are so challenging to have removed from a criminal record.
Differences Between Charges And Conviction
Of course, a DUI charge and a DUI conviction are two very different things. These distinctions, which have the potential to change lives, can be explained by a reliable, knowledgeable, and fervent advocate. Although many people are detained and accused of DUI, not everyone is found guilty. Between the time of the charge and the moment of the conviction, several things might affect the case.
Expungement Laws In Washington
Expungement, the destruction or elimination of the court file, is not an option in Washington state, per RCW 9.96.060 of the Rev. Code of Washington State. This law explains this rule.
What Can Be Vacated From Your Record?
While DUI and physical control charges can not be vacated, reductions from the following charges can be:
- Reckless Driving
- Reckless Endangerment
- Negligent Driving First Degree
- Hit and Run
- Driving on a Suspended License
While convictions for the aforementioned charges may be overturned, it should be noted that this is a discretionary decision taken by the court and not a matter of right. Some judges will object to the proposal and do so. This is especially true if the conviction stems from a DUI accusation that was later dropped. These judges believe that in the event of a later DUI conviction, a DUI reduction counts as a prior DUI. The use of the initial conviction as a prior offense in sentencing calculations would be rendered invalid by its expungement.
Anyone who meets the requirements for the expungement of such a conviction should submit a motion to do so for this reason alone. In addition to possessing a qualified charge that is eligible for expungement, one must also:
- Have no new criminal charges pending at the time the motion is made
- Have no new convictions for any crime in any court
- Never had a record of another conviction vacated
- Not be currently restrained or restrained within the five years prior to the application of record vacation by a domestic violence protection order, no contact order, anti-harassment order or civil restraining order
- Three years must have elapsed since compliance with all conditions of the sentencing court
- If the conviction sought to be vacated would count as a “prior offense” in case of a subsequent DUI conviction, at least ten (10) years must have elapsed since the arrest for that prior offense
Why Can’t I Get A DUI Taken Off My Record in Washington?
DUI expungement is not achievable in Washington State for a number of reasons. The first one is that the guilty motorist might commit the same error again, and having a DUI on their record is an efficient strategy to reduce the likelihood that they would do so and face a second driving conviction.
Driving offenders who commit serious violations repeatedly face severe repercussions, therefore it’s critical to handle DUI accusations carefully and avoid getting charged again. A DUI in Washington state stays on a person’s record for seven years due to the likelihood of a second violation.
The fact that most courts want drivers to feel the full brunt of their guilt for their reckless driving behaviors is another reason why drivers are unable to have DUI charges wiped from their records.
Judges are particularly reticent to expunge DUI convictions from a driver’s criminal record because they want the conviction to be taken seriously and discouraged from further infractions.
Vacating Washington State Convictions – Not For DUIs
However, even after a conviction is overturned, a record of the case, the charge(s), etc., still exists with the Guilty conclusion altered to Dismissed since Washington State does not permit expungement, except in some very rare and unusual instances.
It enables you to truthfully and legally claim on applications for employment, admission to school, housing, security clearance, and other similar situations in which you were never convicted of the crime for which you had previously been found guilty. However, keep in mind that if a potential employer finds the remaining date on a Washington State Patrol criminal background check and report, they can assume you have not been completely truthful when you claim you were not convicted.
Vacate Rules for DUI and DUI-Related Crimes
Presently, Washington law does not permit vacation of any of the following criminal convictions:
- Driving Under the Influence – RCW 46.61.502
- Physical Control Under the Influence – RCW 46.61.504.
- “Felony” DUI/Physical Control – RCW 46.61.502/.504.
- Vehicular Homicide – RCW 46.61.520; when proximately caused by the driving of any vehicle by any person while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug as defined by RCW 46.61.502, or by the operation of any vehicle in a reckless manner.
- Vehicular Assault – RCW 46.61.522; when proximately caused by the operation or driving of a vehicle by a person while under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any drug or by the operation or driving of a vehicle in a reckless manner.
However, in very limited circumstances a conviction for Vehicular Assault may be eligible to be vacated. A conviction under the “DSO” prong, or – “Disregard for the Safety of Others” – is considered to be neither a violent offense nor a crime against persons and may be eligible to be vacated.
There are certain DUI-related offenses that may be vacated. According to the Washington State vacate law, certain crimes labeled “prior offenses” [RCW 9.96.060] may be eligible to be vacated under specific circumstances.
“Prior offense” convictions are [RCW 46.61.5055]:
- Negligent Driving in the first degree; where the charge was originally a violation for DUI (RCW 46.61.502); Physical Control (RCW 46.61.504); Vehicular Homicide (RCW 46.61.520); or Vehicular Assault (RCW 46.61.522).
- Reckless Driving; where the charge was originally a violation for DUI (RCW 46.61.502); Physical Control (RCW 46.61.504); Vehicular Homicide (RCW 46.61.520); or Vehicular Assault (RCW 46.61.522).
- Reckless Endangerment; where the charge was originally a violation for DUI (RCW 46.61.502); Physical Control (RCW 46.61.504); Vehicular Homicide (RCW 46.61.520); or Vehicular Assault (RCW 46.61.522).
- Operating Commercial Motor Vehicle with Alcohol or THC in System – RCW 46.25.110.
- Operating Non-Highway Vehicle Under the Influence – RCW 46.09.470.
- Operating Snowmobile Under the Influence – RCW 46.10.490.
- Operating Aircraft Under the Influence – RCW 47.68.270.
- Operating a Vessel Under the Influence – RCW 79A.60.040.
According to the Washington State vacate law, these “prior offense” convictions can be vacated under the following circumstances:
- The person must meet all conditions required to vacate under the misdemeanor/gross misdemeanor vacate law [link RCW 9.96.060].
- At least three (3) years must have passed since the person completed the terms of sentence.
- The person must establish he or she has not had any alcohol or drug violations within a ten (10) year period since the date of arrest.
Basically, this last provision creates a ten-year wait requirement for persons seeking to vacate a “prior offense” conviction. For example, if a person was arrested on Jan. 1. 2008, and was ultimately convicted of a “prior offense” crime, assuming all other requirements are met, this person would not be eligible to vacate the conviction until Jan. 1, 2018.
The “prior offense” rules do not apply to what is considered a “Minor DUI” conviction; Driver Under Twenty-One Consuming Alcohol; RCW 46.61.503. A person may seek vacation of this conviction under the standard requirements of RCW 9.96.060. The ten-year wait provision does not apply.