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Washington State’s New Law to Vacate Criminal Convictions

July 09, 2019

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  • New this month, changes will take effect modifying Washington state’s process for vacating conviction records. Effective June-July 2019, more people with felony and misdemeanor convictions will be eligible for relief. Although Washington typically doesn’t allow people to completely expunge or destroy criminal records, they do allow criminal convictions to be “vacated.” A vacatur releases the person from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense, and authorizes the person to deny the conviction. However, the law clarified that vacating a conviction does not restore Washington gun rights – which is a separate legal service.

    Vacating Felonies

    Under the new law, more felony convictions are now eligible to be vacated. Specifically, certain violent felonies which were not previously eligible such as assault in the second and third degree, and robbery in the second degree, may now be vacated if the conviction did not involve a firearm, deadly weapon, or “sexual motivation.” However, second and/or third-degree assault convictions must not have been committed against a law enforcement officer or peace officer.

    Also, those people that were not eligible because of a subsequent conviction may now be eligible if they have not been convicted of a new crime within a certain amount of years. The following are the new waiting periods for felony convictions:

    • Class B Felony: Cannot have been convicted of a new crime in Washington, another state, or federal court, 10 years prior to the application for vacation. Also, 10 years must have passed since the later of: 1) The applicant’s release from community custody; 2) the applicant’s release from full and partial confinement; or 3) the applicant’s sentencing date.
    • Class C Felony: Cannot have been convicted of a new crime in Washington, another state, or federal court, 5 years prior to the application for vacation. If the offense was a DUI or Physical Control of Vehicle Under the Influence, then 5 years must have passed since the later of: 1) The applicant’s release from community custody; 2) the applicant’s release from full and partial confinement; or 3) the applicant’s sentencing date.

    Finally, one of the most important changes is that the person need not have satisfied the financial obligations in order to qualify. Therefore, an applicant can apply to vacate a conviction without all court costs having first been paid. RCW § 9.94A.640.

    Vacating Misdemeanors

    The law for vacating misdemeanors in Washington has also changed dramatically. Now, applicants may seek to vacate their misdemeanor conviction, even if they have been subsequently convicted of another offense. The new law simply requires that 3 years have passed since the person completed the terms of the sentence, including paying all court costs and fees. The new law does require all financial obligations to be paid for misdemeanor convictions before they can be vacated.

    Finally, misdemeanor marijuana convictions for offenses committed by someone aged 21 and older can be vacated without a waiting period or any other requirements. The law also changed the requirements for domestic violence convictions. Beforehand, one could not have had a previous conviction for domestic violence and then petition to vacate a second domestic violence charge. Now, the law states that you cannot have had “two or more domestic violence convictions stemming from different incidents.” Also, “failure to register as a sex offender” under RCW 9A.44.132 is now eligible for relief. RCW § 9.96.060.

    Conclusion

    The new laws to vacate a Washington conviction will make many more cases eligible for relief. However, these laws can be difficult to fully navigate without the assistance of an attorney. It’s recommended that you seek the advice of a firm experienced in vacating Washington convictions. To see if you qualify, visit the free, confidential eligibility test on our firm’s website. Our team is here to help you take the first step in moving past your criminal record. 

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