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Get Misdemeanor Convictions off Your Criminal Record

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

Read about Washington state's new law called the New Hope Act. It took effect July 28, 2019. This law makes it easier to vacate criminal convictions. You can now vacate more types of misdemeanor convictions. #8705EN

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What is new?

Washington state has a new law called the New Hope Act. It took effect July 28, 2019. This law makes it easier to vacate criminal convictions. You can now vacate more types of misdemeanor convictions. You can also now have multiple misdemeanors vacated all at once, or at different times.

What does it mean to "vacate" a conviction?

This is the legal term for removing criminal convictions from your criminal record. It gives you some protection in background checks.

Why would I do this?

It will: 

  • Give you some protection in background checks.

  • Stop the State Patrol from releasing the record to the public.

  • Officially "cancel" the convictions. GR 15(b) (8). You can then tell anyone, including someone who might hire you or rent you a place to live, that you were not convicted of those offenses.

Does the conviction completely disappear from my record?

No.

  • They will still be in court records and computerized court indexes to court records. If a conviction was a domestic violence case, these records and indexes will still show the case type. 

  • Info about the court records from the cases that led to the convictions are still public. You can still find them on www.courts.wa.gov.

  • Prosecutors can still use evidence of vacated convictions in a later criminal prosecution. They can still use them in a sexually violent predator commitment proceeding.

  • FBI records and private background check records may still have info about the convictions.

Could an employer or landlord still find out about my convictions?

Maybe. See the previous section.

Can I have my convictions "expunged"?

In some states, this means they delete a conviction from your records. No Washington law allows this.

You can ask State Patrol to delete non-conviction data. In Washington, not much is non-conviction data. RCW 10.97.030(2); 10.97.060.

Do I need to go to a hearing?

Maybe not. The prosecutor might agree to a vacate order, if you meet all the requirements. Ask the county prosecutor's office where your conviction happened if they will agree to a vacate order.

Are there misdemeanors I cannot get off my record?

Yes. Courts will not vacate these:

  • Sex offenses (RCW 9A.44). There is one exception.  You can vacate a conviction for failing to register as a sex offender

  • Convictions involving obscenity and pornography (RCW 9.68)

  • Convictions involving sexual exploitation of children (RCW 9.68A)

  • Violent offenses or attempts to commit violent offenses (RCW 9.94A.030)

Are there special requirements for vacating misdemeanors?

Yes. It depends on the type of misdemeanor. Keep reading.

When can I vacate DUI misdemeanors?

If it is a "prior offense," all these must be true. You must:

  • Not have had any alcohol or drug violations within ten years of your arrest

  • Wait until it has been at least ten years since your arrest date

When can I vacate domestic violence misdemeanors?

You must do all of these:

  • Notify the prosecuting attorney's office that prosecuted you that you are filing to vacate these convictions

  • Not have two or more domestic violence convictions from different incidents

  • Wait at least five years since you completed the sentence. This includes any treatment ordered

When can I vacate a misdemeanors for marijuana use? 

There is only one requirement. You must have been at least 21 years old at the time of the conviction. Use our Vacate a Marijuana Misdemeanor Conviction packet.

Can I vacate a prostitution convictions?  

Yes, if all these are true:

  • You can prove by a preponderance of evidence that you were a victim of trafficking

  • You have no other pending criminal charges anywhere for any crime besides prostitution

  • You have not been convicted of another crime (besides prostitution) anywhere since the date of the conviction you want to vacate

Use our Vacate a Prostitution Conviction packet. Get help from a lawyer. This might be hard to do on your own.

I am a member of an Indian tribe in Washington state. My conviction was for trying to exercise my tribal fishing rights.

Use our Vacate a Criminal Conviction Related to Treaty Indian Fishing Rights packet.

I don't need one of the special packets listed above. What forms should I use?

You can use the general Motion and proposed Order form.

Where can I learn more?

Washington State Courts Website:  www.courts.wa.gov has a statewide directory of courts, with addresses and numbers. It also has legal info and forms, including:

  • Forms to seal Juvenile Court Records

  • Forms for petitioning for a Certificate and Order of Discharge

Get Legal Help

Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to apply for legal help

 

Download Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Record of Misdemeanor Conviction

Download Order on Motion re: Vacating Misdemeanor Conviction

Last Review and Update: Feb 03, 2020
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