Expungement And Vacation Criminal Records In Washington

by ECL Writer

A criminal record can have a variety of life-changing and occasionally permanent effects. No matter how serious the offense, it will typically be included in the public record and will frequently be there for life.

Even if you were never found guilty of a crime but were nonetheless detained by the police and had your data seized, such information is forever added to the public record.

This record may prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment or home, receiving student loans, financial aid for college, and other opportunities.

You may, however, avoid letting your record ruin your life. You are able to take control of your life and let the past go through the legal processes of expungement and vacating criminal records.

What Does Expungement And Vacation Criminal Records Entail?

In Washington state, expungement and vacation of criminal records are legal processes that allow individuals with certain criminal convictions to have their records cleared or sealed. These processes are designed to provide individuals with a fresh start by removing the stigma associated with a criminal record and improving their prospects for employment, housing, and other opportunities. However, it’s important to note that the specific procedures and eligibility criteria may change over time, so it’s essential to consult with an attorney or the Washington State Courts website for the most up-to-date information.

Here’s a general overview of expungement and vacation of criminal records in Washington:

  • Expungement:
    • Expungement in Washington is often referred to as “vacation of records” or “expungement by court order.”
    • Expungement is generally available for certain misdemeanor and felony convictions, but eligibility criteria vary depending on the nature of the offense and the time that has passed since the conviction.
    • Typically, individuals must have completed all the terms of their sentence, including probation and payment of fines, to be eligible for expungement.
    • Serious offenses like sex crimes and crimes against children are generally not eligible for expungement.
    • To initiate the process, an individual must file a petition with the court that handled their criminal case.
    • If the court grants the petition, the conviction is removed from public view, and the individual can legally state that they have not been convicted of that particular crime.
  • Vacation of Criminal Records:
    • Vacation of criminal records is a more specific process in Washington that applies to certain drug-related offenses.
    • Eligibility for vacation of drug-related convictions depends on the specific offense, the individual’s criminal history, and whether they have completed the required treatment or rehabilitation program.
    • Successful vacation of a drug-related conviction can result in the conviction being cleared from the individual’s record.
    • The process usually involves filing a petition with the court, and if granted, the conviction is vacated, which is similar to having the record expunged.

It’s important to emphasize that the process for expungement and vacation of records in Washington State can be complex, and eligibility criteria may change over time. Additionally, not all convictions are eligible for these processes, and the outcome depends on the specific circumstances of each case.

Expungement In Washington State

Expungement is a legal remedy that empowers individuals to have their law enforcement records pertaining to investigations and arrests removed. This option is exclusively accessible to those seeking the erasure of non-conviction data.

This essentially implies that individuals who have undergone investigation and faced charges were never ultimately convicted of the alleged offense. This could be due to the charge never being formally filed, the case being dismissed prior to trial, or the case resulting in an acquittal at trial. It’s essential to note that this process is not applicable to individuals who have been convicted of the offense, including those who have received a deferred sentence.

When you initiate the expungement process, your records, including photographs and information linked to your arrest and investigation, are entirely eradicated from law enforcement databases, as if they had never existed.

Typically, obtaining an expungement involves composing a letter to the relevant law enforcement agency, formally requesting the deletion of the information. Alternatively, it’s possible to secure a court order instructing the agency to obliterate the records. However, eligibility for expungement is contingent on meeting the following criteria:

  • Your case exclusively involves non-conviction data.
  • At least 2 years have passed since the case was closed without a finding of guilt against you, or at least 3 years have transpired since your arrest date, and the case is no longer pending in court.
  • You have not faced any new arrests or charges for additional crimes since the initial arrest.
  • You do not possess a prior conviction for a felony or gross misdemeanor.
  • The case does not involve a deferred prosecution.

What Is The Process Of Expungement In Washington

One of the first things a Washington expungement lawyer will attempt to accomplish after receiving your call is to determine precisely which agency arrested you. Both the Washington State Patrol and the police department that conducted the investigation may need to be petitioned.

When you submit the petition, you will receive a form asking for the details they will need to process your request. It is a good idea to file with all of the organizations involved in the incident inquiry.

Vacating Criminal Records In Washington

Expungement is not a choice for those who were found guilty of the crime for which they were detained and accused. Instead, the procedure that applies to them is the expungement of criminal histories.

Criminal record clearance is a very distinct process from expungement. While vacating is more like cleaning your name of the conviction, expungement is similar to removing the records.

The request is typically made to the court where the defendant was found guilty, and the court typically accedes to it. If the court grants the request, the guilty plea will become a “not guilty” plea, and the conviction will be overturned.

When this occurs, you are able to claim legally that you were never found guilty of the crime. It is OK to provide that information on forms and other places that ask for information about prior convictions.

However, a trip won’t make your criminal history disappear from public view. Instead of a conviction, a “V” meaning voided would appear. Additionally, you are only permitted to take a vacation once in your lifetime.

For felonies and misdemeanors, there are two distinct procedures for expunging a criminal record.

Misdemeanors 

Misdemeanors are typically offenses for which the maximum penalty is either a jail term of up to one year or a fine of $5,000. You can apply for the expungement of your criminal record if you meet the following criteria:

  • You were convicted of a misdemeanor in the state of Washington.
  • You have not faced any new criminal charges in any state or federal court since your conviction.
  • A minimum of three years has passed since the conclusion of your case. This means you must have fulfilled all the conditions of your sentence, including paying court costs or fines. However, please note that this does not apply to cases involving domestic violence; in such instances, a five-year waiting period is required.
  • The misdemeanor you were convicted of is not related to DUI, a sex offense, or one classified as a violent offense in Washington.
  • You have not been convicted of any additional crimes during this waiting period.
  • You have never had any prior criminal convictions vacated or expunged.
  • Currently, you do not have any active no-contact or no-harassment orders against you, nor have you had any issued against you in the past five years.

Felony 

The procedure and prerequisites for felony convictions differ somewhat. Not all felony convictions are eligible for a vacation order. You can commence the process if:

  • You have a felony conviction in Washington.
  • You have not been convicted of any other crimes since the conviction you are now attempting to vacate.
  • You are not currently facing new charges in any U.S. state or federal court.
  • Your conviction was not related to a violent offense.
  • Your conviction was not related to a crime against a person.
  • If you were convicted of a Class B felony, at least 10 years have passed; if it was a Class C felony, at least 5 years have passed. Convictions for Class A felonies cannot be vacated.
  • You have never previously utilized the vacation process.

How Does The Vacation Process Work

Typically, your attorney will assist you in submitting an application for a vacation to the particular court where you were found guilty. Your attorney will advise you of the precise rules that apply in each court.

The courts frequently demand that applicants complete a Vacating order form. A sample of the form is available here. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Washington State Patrol will receive notification of the order from the court if it is granted.

The data will still be available to the public, as was previously stated. Background checks will still list a vacated conviction, but they will say “vacated” rather than “conviction.”

Conclusion – Hiring A Lawyer

In conclusion, hiring a lawyer for expungement and vacation of criminal records in a Washington case can be a crucial decision that significantly impacts your future. The complexities of the legal process, the nuances of Washington state laws, and the potential long-term consequences of a criminal record make it imperative to seek professional legal assistance.

Expunging or vacating a criminal record is not just about erasing past mistakes; it’s about opening doors to a brighter future. Whether you are looking for better employment opportunities, housing, or simply the peace of mind that comes with a clean slate, a skilled attorney can navigate the legal system on your behalf.

The legal process for expungement and vacation of criminal records involves intricate steps, including filing petitions, attending court hearings, and providing evidence to support your case. A knowledgeable attorney will not only guide you through these steps but also increase your chances of a successful outcome.

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