As discussed several times in this blog, Washington State law does not automatically expunge or seal criminal records. If you have ever been convicted of a crime in this state, it will stay on your record for the rest of your life unless you take action to request that the court expunge or seal it.
Among other things, a conviction for a serious offense on your record can make it very tough to get a good job. Most employers conduct a background check on a job applicant before offering them the position. If something pops up, businesses are likely to move on to the next candidate, even if they are less qualified. Meanwhile, employers in the Seattle-Tacoma area and across the country are desperate to fill open positions right now.
Automatic Record Sealing Comes to New State
In response to these two problems, lawmakers in Colorado recently passed the Clean Slate Act. Under the new law, convictions for non-violent offenses will automatically get sealed after a certain number of years pass. Felonies will be sealed ten years after the charge. For misdemeanors, the waiting period will be seven years. Residents cannot be convicted of any subsequent offenses during that time, or the clock will start over.
Employers were one of the driving forces behind the bill, but it should also benefit workers. A state senator noted that the average person’s income went up 25 percent within a year after their criminal record was sealed.
Record Sealing vs. Expungement
Seven to ten years can be a long time to wait. Sealing a record is not as strong as expunging it. Even if your record is sealed, a court order can get it unsealed. Still, it can be a great option to help you get your career — indeed, your whole life — back on track.