For thousands of people in Washington and across the nation, a sealed record is a sigh of relief; it is a fresh start. Criminal charges can limit your employment options, your educational future and your support systems, all in addition to limiting your freedoms. By limiting access to your criminal records, you limit the impact charges have. But sealing records isn’t always easy, and it isn’t always the solution people think it is.
How sealing records works
Sealing records is a lengthy and detailed process meant to make your prior misdemeanor criminal conviction as though it hadn’t happened. This protects you during job applications and future encounters with law enforcement. The process differs based on a variety of factors.
The court automatically seals criminal records for minors with nonviolent records. For adults, the process is more involved.
At a very broad level, you may be eligible for a sealed record if you were charged with a nonviolent misdemeanor offense or certain felonies or are a victim of sex trafficking. To seal your record, you have to vacate your charges, meaning you complete your sentence in its entirety. Then, you can apply to seal and destroy your record.
Late last year, dozens of Washington citizens found out that their supposedly sealed records were not actually sealed. This meant that police and law enforcement were able to access their past criminal history, despite prior motions to seal and destroy. You need to work with someone who can take your case from start to finish. Only meticulous and dedicated work will ensure your records get properly sealed.