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When and How to Vacate Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor Convictions

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

9911EN - This publication has information and forms on how to vacate records on certain non-violent misdemeanor convictions in Washington State for offenses that took place on/after July 1, 1984.

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Should I use this publication?

This publication has information and forms on how to vacate records on certain non-violent misdemeanor convictions in Washington State for offenses that took place on/after July 1, 1984. Washington law allows you to vacate some misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor convictions.  The Washington State Patrol ("State Patrol") will remove a "vacated" conviction from your public criminal history record.  This gives you some protection in background checks for employment, housing, and other purposes. It also releases you for all penalties and disabilities resulting from the conviction. It does not erase all information about your conviction from every place you might find it.

  • "Vacate" is the legal term for the process for "clearing" a misdemeanor conviction from your criminal record when you meet certain requirements. 

Once your conviction has been vacated, you may state that you have never been convicted of that crime. This will help you answer questions on employment or housing applications.

Vacation of a conviction does not do the following:

  • It does not keep the conviction from coming up in a later criminal prosecution.

  • It does not automatically give back your right to own a gun.[1]

  • It does not erase all information about your conviction from every place you might find it. 

The law does not automatically vacate your conviction for you. If you want a conviction vacated, you must file a motion with the court. This publication will help you decide:

  • Whether the law applies to your situation and, if so,

  • How to ask the court to vacate your conviction.

*If your conviction was for a felony, do not use this packet. Read our packet called Criminal History/Records: When and How to Vacate Non-Violent Class B or C Felony Convictions, available at www.washingtonlawhelp.org.

When can I get a misdemeanor conviction vacated?

All of the following must be true before a court may, in its discretion, vacate the conviction:

  • There are no criminal charges pending against you in any court of this state or another state, or in any federal court.

  • No state or federal court has convicted you of a new crime since the date of sentencing for the crime you wish to have vacated.

  • You have never had the record of another misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction vacated.

  • You are not currently restrained, and have not been restrained within the past five years, by a domestic violence protection order, a no-contact order, an anti-harassment protection order, or a civil restraining order which restrains you from contacting the other party.

The conviction you want to vacate cannot be for one of the following crimes:

  • Driving while under the influence ("DUI"), RCW 46.61.502

  • Actual physical control while under the influence, RCW 46.61 .504

  • Operating a railroad, etc., while intoxicated, RCW 9.91.020

  • A violation of chapter 9A.44 RCW (sex offenses)

  • A violation of chapter 9.68 RCW (obscenity and pornography)

  • A violation of chapter 9.68A RCW (sexual exploitation of children)

  • A violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030 or an attempt to commit a violent offense, RCW 9.96.060

If the conviction you want to vacate involved domestic violence:

  • You must not have been convicted of any other domestic violence offense arising out of any other incident. (If your current motion is for more than one conviction that came out of a single incident, none of those convictions counts as a previous conviction.)

  • It has been five years since you finished the terms of the original conditions of the sentence, including any financial obligations and successful completion of any treatment ordered.

If the crime you want to have vacated did not involve domestic violence:

  • It must be three years since you finished your sentence, including any financial obligations. 

*If you meet each of the above requirements, go on to the next section. If you do not, stop here. Do not use this packet.

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE

Here is a step-by-step guide to vacating your misdemeanor convictions.

Step 1: Review the court file or the court docket for the offense you want the court to vacate. This will get you the information you need to fill out the motion form. (See Step 2 below.)

You may have to get copies of your criminal history records and attach them to your motion. For more information, read the local court rules (available online here: http://www.courts.wa.gov/court_rules/?fa=court_rules.local&group=local) or contact the clerk of the court where you will file your motion.

Step 2: Fill out the forms. The forms you need are on the Administrative Office of the Courts web site in MS Word format. Alternatively, you can download and print the forms from the PDF file version of this resource. Links to the forms are provided below:

  1. CrRLJ 09.0100 (Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Conviction): Use this form to ask the court to decide whether you can have your conviction vacated.

  2. CrRLJ 09.0150 (Notice of Motion for Order Vacating Conviction): Use this form to let the prosecuting attorney's office know about the hearing.

  3. CrRLJ 09.0200 (Order on Motion re: Vacating Conviction): Use this form as a courtesy to the court. If the court agrees to vacate your conviction, the court will just need to sign and date this form.

Step 3: Make at least two copies of each form after filling them out and signing where your name where needed. Keep a copy of each for your records.

Step 4: Schedule a hearing for the motion for order vacating conviction. Contact the clerk of the court where you were sentenced. Ask for the date and time for the hearing. Fill out the form that court uses to schedule a hearing. Make at least two copies of the notice. Keep one for yourself.

Step 5: File the original Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Conviction and Notice of Motion for Order Vacating Conviction forms.

Step 6:  Serve the prosecuting attorney. On the same day that you file those documents with the clerk of the court, you must also give a copy of the documents to the prosecuting attorney's office that prosecuted you.   You can hand-deliver the documents to the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney.

Step 7: Go to the hearing. If the judge grants the motion, ask the judge for permission to hand the Order on Motion re: Vacating Conviction to him/her.   The judge will then sign the Order.  The clerk of the court will send a copy of the order to the Washington State Patrol and to any local law enforcement agency that has criminal history information about you.

Other Resources

Washington State Court's Website:  http://www.courts.wa.gov  includes a statewide directory of courts, with address/numbers. It also has legal information and forms, including:
Criminal History and Criminal Records:  A Guide on When and How to Challenge, Seal, Vacate or Expunge, written by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). This publication has information on juvenile and adult criminal history court and law enforcement records. You can also get it by calling AOC directly at 360.705.5328.

What if I need legal help?

CLEAR is Washington's toll-free, statewide intake, advice and referral service for low-income people looking for free legal help with civil legal problems. 

  • Outside King County: Call 1-888-201-1014 weekdays from 9:10 a.m. until 12:25 p.m.  CLEAR works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed.  If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-888-201-1014 using your preferred TTY or Video relay service.

  • King County: Call 211 for information and referral to a legal services provider Monday through Friday from 8:00 am – 6:00 pm. Or call (206) 461-3200, or the toll-free number1-877-211-WASH (9274). 211 works with a language line to provide free interpreters as needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-800-833-6384 or 711. You will be connected to a relay operator at no cost, who will then connect you with 211. You may also find information on King County legal service providers on 211's website: www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.

  • If you are age 60 or Over: Call CLEAR*Sr. at 1-888-387-7111, regardless of your income.


 

This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.  It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. 
This information is current as of March 2014.

©2014 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.)

 

 

Footnote:

1. You can file a petition to restore these rights under RCW 9.41.040(4).  See also RCW 9.41.047.

Last Review and Update: Mar 06, 2014