Vacating/Expunging Criminal Records

Vacating Adult Criminal Records

Many people contact our office to see if they are able to clear their criminal records.  This process is called different things in different jurisdictions.  Some of the terms used are "expunge", "vacate", and "seal". They all have different legal meanings, and are may not be used interchangeably.

In the state of Washington, the procedure most often used to clean up an adult's criminal record is the "motion to vacate".  If the motion is granted, and your criminal record is vacated, you should receive a court order saying that you may truthfully answer that you were not convicted of the vacated crime, including on employment applications.  Your conviction will have been vacated, as though it never existed. There still remains a process of notifying various state and federal agencies of this change, and this can be a more cumbersome and lengthy process than the motion to vacate itself. Additionally, you still may find that background checks still list the conviction, and the companies and agencies responsible for these background checks will need to update their records on an individual basis.

Vacating Felony Crimes

Certain felony crimes are considered so serious, that a person convicted of that crime may not ever be eligible to have it vacated from their criminal record, some of these situations are listed below:

  • Conviction was for a class A felony or an attempt to commit a Class A felony;
  • Conviction was for a violent offense (violent offense is defined by statute and limited to a few offenses);
  • Conviction was for a crime against persons (crimes against persons are defined by statute and limited to a few offenses;
  • There is a new criminal conviction, since the date of discharge from probation or supervision;
  • There are new criminal charges pending, in any court in the Unites States;
  • Conviction was for a class B felony and less than 10 years have passed since the date of supervision discharge;
  • Conviction is for a class C felony and less than 5 years have passed since the date of supervision discharge.

Vacating Misdemeanor Crimes

The general rule is that a person can petition to have their misdemeanor conviction vacated three years after completing all terms of their sentence, including legal financial obligations.  When the conviction is for domestic violence, five years must have elapsed after completing the terms of their sentence, including all legal financial obligations.

The petitioner must have had no new convictions since the time of the original conviction, must not have any charges pending against them.  They cannot have had a conviction vacated before, and cannot have a restraining order of any kind in place.  If they are seeking to vacate a domestic violence offense, they cannot have been convicted previously of a separate domestic violence offense.

Certain misdemeanor crimes may also not be vacated:

  • Sex and Pornography Offenses
  • Driving Under the Influence & Physical Control Under the Influence
  • Violent offenses (violent offense is defined by statute and limited to a few offenses);


Destroying & Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records

Often times people are under the mistaken belief that once a person turns eighteen, their record will be destroyed or sealed.  This is definitely not the case in Washington State.  In order to have either happen, a person must apply to the court and seek a court order.

In order to have a juvenile record destroyed:

  • The petitioner's record consists of only one referral for diversion, the petitioner must be eighteen years or older, and at least two years must have passed since the time the diversion was completed.
  • The petitioner's record consists only of referrals for diversion, the petitioned is at least 23 years of age, they completed all referrals for diversion, there are no pending charges.

A person can have their juvenile record sealed if:

  • The offense was a Class A Felony and the petitioner has since lived five years in the community without committing any crime, and the person was not convicted of rape in the first degree, rape in the second degree, or indecent liberties with forcible compulsion.
  • The offense was a Class B or C felony offense, gross misdemeanor, misdemeanor, or diversion; and the petitioner has since lived two years in the community, without committing any crime.
  • If the offense was a sex offense, the petitioner must completed, or had terminated previously their duty to register as a sex offender.
  • There can be no pending charges.

When you need help clearing your record, we can help. Call us at (253) 867-2675 to schedule a free initial consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys are standing by.