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Does my criminal record qualify for expungement in Washington?

On Behalf of | Feb 7, 2024 | Expungement

As with many questions in the legal world, the short answer is “it depends.”

Generally speaking, “expungement” only applies to a handful of situations. However, “vacating” a criminal record is another story.

Expunging non-conviction criminal records

Thankfully, these situations are pretty straightforward. As the name suggests, “non-conviction records” refer to incidents that did not result in a “conviction or other disposition adverse to the subject.”

Examples include situations when police investigated but no charges were filed, the state dismissed the case or a judge or jury found that you were not guilty.

Expunging conviction records

The bad news is if you plead guilty to a crime or the court convicts you after a trial, you cannot expunge your criminal record. This applies to felonies, misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. Unfortunately, there is no flexibility for these situations.

Other ineligible situations include:

  • If you plead guilty, then serve probation, and a judge later dismisses your case after you have completed probation, also referred to as a “deferred sentence.” Again, if you ever plead guilty, expungement is off the table.
  • The judge rules that you aren’t competent to stand trial, or you are found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Vacating a criminal conviction in Washington

Now for the good news! It’s possible to vacate certain felonies and misdemeanors. But what does that mean and how difficult is it?

In 2019, Washington enshrined the New Hope Act into law, which made it easier to vacate criminal convictions. If you successfully vacate a criminal conviction, you can honestly tell prospective employers, landlords and pretty much everyone else that a court never convicted you of that particular crime. A vacated conviction will not appear in background checks conducted by the Washington State Patrol or the FBI.

It also means that the vacated conviction “shall not be included in your criminal history for purposes of determining a sentence in any subsequent conviction.” However, there are exceptions for felonies if a prosecutor needs to establish a pattern of felony criminal behavior in a future felony charge.

A comprehensive list of situations when a felony can not be vacated can be found here.