So today I thought I'd talk a little bit about what needs to be present to expunge or vacate a criminal conviction for a misdemeanor in Washington state. There are some very specific requirements, which I'm going to talk about in a second. But the bottom line is, you stay out of trouble for quite a long time and you've got a great chance to clear your criminal record, have your voting rights reinstated, and have your firearm rights reinstated.
These requirements come right out of the statute - RCW 9.96.060 - titled Misdemeanor Offenses - Vacating Records. Here we go:
1. You must complete all the terms of your sentence. This means you've got to complete your probationary period and pay all of your fines. So often people put off paying their fines and it comes back to bite them in the ass.And that's it. If your head is spinning right now I completely understand why. That's why you want to get yourself a good expungement lawyer to help you through the process. For one thing, you'd hate to start the process, pay a bunch of money and then find out you aren't even eligible to have your record vacated yet.
2. It's within the court's discretion whether or not they do this. That means that even if you meet all the requirements, there is the chance that the judge will tell you no, they won't vacate the conviction. You've got to be ready for that.
3. If any one of the following are present you MAY NOT have your record expunged:
(1) there are any pending criminal charges in any court in the United State;
(2) the offense was a violent offense or an attempt to commit a violent offense (class A felony, some categories of manslaughter, kidnapping, and arson, etc.);
(3) the offense was a DUI (yes, it's not possible to vacate a DUI);
(4) the offense was one of a number of sex offenses;
(5) domestic violence was involved and one of these factors is present - you didn't let the prosecutor know about the request to vacate; you have a previous domestic violence conviction; you lie about having a previous domestic violence conviction; less than five years have passed since the case was completed (this includes probation);
(6) Less than three years have passed since the case was completed;
(7) the offender has been convicted of a new crime in this state since the date of conviction;
(8) the applicant has already had a conviction vacated; or
(9) the applicant has had a no-contact order put in place against them.
Bottom line, you stay out of trouble and you have a great chance of getting your criminal conviction expunged. The process is set up to be hard and to be complex for a reason - people don't like erasing criminal records. But if you follow the steps, are eligible for expungement, and get the right person to help you, it can happen.