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Is expungement worth the trouble in Washington?

On Behalf of | Mar 12, 2024 | Expungement

As we’ve mentioned previously, a study conducted in 2020 revealed that 60% of Washingtonians with criminal records may be eligible for expungement, but only 3% of those people have pursued it.

Freeing oneself from the numerous frustrating restrictions on things like employment and housing seems like an attractive possibility, right? Possible expungement awareness issues aside, why do so few people seek relief? The following are a few of the common sources of hesitation.

Isn’t the process complicated?

Unfortunately, the answer to that question is “it depends.” For example, expungement of a non-conviction arrest is going to be far easier than vacating a felony conviction. And the court will consider many factors in addition to what appears on your record, particularly what measures you’ve taken to remain a law-abiding citizen, making each case unique. The best way to get a sense of your particular circumstances and chances at expungement is to do some reading.

Do I really need a lawyer to apply for expungement?

As with almost any legal issue, no, you don’t technically need an attorney to apply for expungement. However, the do-it-yourself approach to expungement is a monumental task. The possibility for paperwork errors and missed opportunities that might lead to a successful expungement can greatly reduce your chances for victory. In other cases, the process becomes so complicated and frustrating that people just give up.

Furthermore, consulting an attorney will give you a quick answer to the question of whether or not you’re eligible for expungement. If the answer is “no,” the attorney will tell you so immediately and you will have saved yourself a large amount of time and money.

Expungement is expensive, isn’t it?

On the tail of the strongly recommended legal help, people immediately jump to the next obstacle: cost.

It’s true, after attorneys’ fees and application fees, expungement may cost a few thousand dollars when all is said and done. That’s a lot of money for anyone, but it may seem impossible for people stuck in low-paying jobs due to their criminal record.

We’ll repeat the popular wisdom here that it’s better to consider expungement as an investment in your future rather than paying to get something fixed. Job opportunities and even promotions at your current job suddenly become achievable after expungement. While the cost may sting now, your future potential earnings should more than make up for it.