What is Expungement in Washington State?

If you have been convicted of a crime in Washington State, no matter how small or trivial, I'm sure you've thought about ways to get it off of your permanent record. It's no fun at all having to check the "yes" box when asked if you've ever been convicted of a crime, not knowing whether or not a prospective employer will even give you the chance to talk about it.

Well, I've got some good news for you. If you have been convicted of a crime in Washington (before I get too far, some crimes don't qualify - more on that later), it is possible to get it removed from your record. The correct terminology for it isn't expungement, however, it's vacation. It takes a lot of work, and the help of a Washington expungement lawyer, but it can be done.

Expungement, by definition, is the actual destruction of an adult conviction record. What I mean is, someone actually goes in and destroys all of the files. Poof. Gone. Expungement is possible for non-conviction data, which is narrowly defined by statute (for example, an arrest that leads to no charges filed). The state patrol will literally go into their computer database and hit the delete button.

Vacation of criminal arrest records is a little bit different. With vacation, what you are asking the court to do is withdraw the conviction from your record, even though the records are not destroyed. When that happens, you can then ask the court to seal those files so that no one else can look at them (getting confusing enough yet? This is why it's critical to get in touch with a Washington expungement lawyer to help). If you are successful in this process, you will have the ability to tell future employers that you were NOT convicted of that crime. It's effectively a way to get your criminal conviction removed from your record.

But, make no mistake, they don't make it easy. There are many many different rules and regulations that need to be followed, a specific amount of time needs to have passed since you were convicted of the crime you want expunged, and you can't have been in any trouble since your last conviction (generally). It's a tough row to hoe, but it can be done, particularly if you have a good expungement lawyer to help walk you through the process.

Now that you know what expungement of criminal records is, what vacation of criminal records is, and what sealing of criminal records is (oh, don't know that yet? It's when the court seals your file so that no one can look into it - this prevents anyone from discovering what the case was about once it is vacated) you probably want to know whether or not you are eligible to have your criminal record expunged. We'll talk about that next time.

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