Expungement

On any given day in Washington state, there are more than 35,000 people living behind bars. When these individuals reenter society, many of them struggle to find gainful employment because of criminal convictions that disqualify them from certain positions. 

If you are one of the thousands of people with criminal convictions who want a second chance, you will want to know more about expungement. Expungement is a court-mandated process in which the court erases a criminal conviction after a person has completed his or her sentence and gone a period of time with no further arrests. 

What are the legal effects of an expungement?  

In most cases, an expungement means that your convictions or arrests are no longer visible for most purposes. Generally, no record of arrest or conviction will appear if an educational entity or potential employer requests a background investigation. You will also not need to disclose any arrests or convictions on a job or rental application after expungement. 

What is the expungement process?  

The process of getting a criminal record erased is quite complex. Your eligibility depends on various factors including the severity of the crime and how much time has passed since the conviction. 

Luckily, in April 2019, the Washington Legislature approved the New Hope Act. The Act simplifies the expungement process and allows more people to clear their convictions. The New Hope Act has made the following changes in the expungement process: 

  • The process for receiving a certifying sentence completion document is now simpler. 
  • Multiple misdemeanors now are eligible for expungement. 
  • With the discretion of the court, additional felony convictions are eligible to vacate.  

Are expunged records completely erased? 

For most purposes, an expungement completely erases a criminal conviction. However, your criminal record will still be visible to certain government entities or law enforcement agencies under certain circumstances. For example, expunged records are viable in deportation proceedings and for sentencing hearings for any future crimes committed.