In the ever-evolving landscape of legal matters, one aspect that holds considerable significance is the impact of a criminal record on an individual’s life. In Washington State, a reckless driving conviction can cast a long shadow, affecting everything from employment prospects to insurance rates and personal freedom. However, hope is on the horizon for those seeking redemption and a fresh start. Expungement, a legal process that offers a second chance by sealing or erasing certain criminal records, has become a topic of increasing interest and importance.
In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will delve into the intricacies of expunging reckless driving records in Washington State. We will explore the reasons why individuals might seek to clear their records, the eligibility criteria, the steps involved in the expungement process, and the potential benefits that lie ahead for those who successfully navigate this legal pathway. As the state continues to reassess its approach to criminal justice and the rehabilitation of offenders, understanding how to expunge a reckless driving conviction can be a beacon of hope for individuals eager to leave their past mistakes behind and embark on a brighter future.
Understanding Reckless Driving in Washington State
Reckless driving is considered a serious criminal traffic offense in the State of Washington. As a gross misdemeanor, it carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. If convicted of Reckless Driving in Washington the Department of Licensing will suspend the driver’s license for 30 days. As a condition of reinstatement, proof of SR-22 insurance must be provided and carried for three (3) years.
The crime of Reckless Driving is defined as driving a motor vehicle with willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. It can mark the sole basis of a stop, arrest, and criminal charge. It also can be bundled as an accompanying charge to a DUI. Along with the potential statutory penalties, there are other collateral concerns.
First, a conviction for Reckless Driving in Washington is a major moving violation. If a person acquires three major moving violations in a five (5) year span, the DOL will consider that person a Habitual Traffic Offender (HTO). The result would be an extremely lengthy license suspension. Follow this link for a complete discussion of the HTO laws and consequences.
Second, a DUI charge that has been reduced to Reckless Driving may be counted as a “prior” DUI for purposes of sentencing enhancements on subsequent DUIs. There is even legitimate concern that such a reduction would be seen as an inadmissible offense, barring entry into Canada.
Reckless Driving in Washington is a serious charge and not a simple traffic infraction. If charged with Reckless Driving, either on its own or in conjunction with a Washington DUI charge, contact a reckless driving attorney for more information.
WA Record Expungement – DUI & Criminal Traffic Convictions
Certain minor and high misdemeanor convictions may be overturned or “expunged” under Washington law. A conviction that is vacated frees the offender from any punishments or restrictions as a result of the conviction. The fact of the conviction is no longer recorded in the person’s criminal history when the record of conviction is vacated. The individual may legitimately respond that he was not convicted of such offense if questioned, for instance on housing or work applications. Certain convictions in the criminal traffic arena can be overturned, while others cannot. Convictions for DUI (RCW 46.61.502) and Physical Control (46.61.504) cannot now be overturned.
Expunge Reckless Driving In Washington State
In Washington State, expunging a reckless driving conviction is a complex process, but it is possible under certain circumstances. Reckless driving is a serious offense, and its expungement is not automatic. To remove this black mark from your record, you must follow specific steps.
Although convictions for reckless driving violations 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.
To qualify for reckless driving in Washington State vacation, in addition to having a qualified charge eligible for expungement one must:
- 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
How To Expunge Reckless Driving In Washington State
Expunging a reckless driving conviction in Washington State is not a straightforward process, and it may not always be possible, depending on the circumstances of your case. However, there are steps you can take to potentially clear your record or reduce the impact of the conviction. Here’s a general outline of what you can do:
- Wait for Eligibility: In Washington State, you typically need to wait for a specific period before you can pursue any record-clearing options. The waiting period may vary depending on the specific circumstances of your case and the outcome of your conviction.
- Verify Your Eligibility: Determine if you are eligible for record expungement or vacation (removal of the conviction from your record) by checking the following factors:
- The nature of the reckless driving conviction.
- Whether you have fulfilled all the court-imposed requirements, such as fines, probation, or community service.
- The specific waiting period required for your case.
- Consult an Attorney: It is strongly recommended that you consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney who specializes in Washington State law. They can assess your case and provide guidance on the best course of action. An attorney can also help you prepare the necessary legal documents and represent you in court if needed.
- Explore Vacating the Conviction: In Washington State, the process of clearing your record is often referred to as “vacating” a conviction. This involves filing a motion with the court that handled your case. Your attorney will help you with this process. To be eligible for vacation, you generally need to meet the following criteria:
- Satisfy all court-ordered requirements and pay any fines.
- Complete the required waiting period.
- Show that you have maintained a clean record since the reckless driving conviction.
- Demonstrate that vacating the conviction would be in the interest of justice.
- File a Motion to Vacate: Your attorney will prepare and file a motion to vacate the reckless driving conviction in the same court where the conviction occurred. This motion should include your reasons for seeking vacatur, evidence of rehabilitation, and any other relevant documentation.
- Attend a Court Hearing: The court may schedule a hearing to review your motion. Your attorney will represent you at the hearing and present your case. It’s important to be prepared to answer any questions the judge may have.
- Follow-up: If the court grants your motion to vacate, it will order the conviction removed from your record. Keep copies of the court orders and follow up with the necessary agencies to ensure that your record is updated.
Remember that expungement laws and procedures can change, so it’s crucial to consult with an attorney who is familiar with the current laws and requirements in Washington State. Additionally, the success of your case will depend on the specific details of your reckless driving conviction and your subsequent conduct.