Vacating Criminal Convictions

The primary tool for removing a criminal conviction from your record in Washington State is a process called ‘Vacating’ the conviction. If successful this procedure removes the finding of ‘guilty’ from your old case file, and legally entitles you to state that you have never been convicted of that crime. Once completed Washington State will no longer be reporting that you have a conviction, and any private background checking company should also be reporting no conviction.

The process of vacating a conviction is not perfect because your case file will remain in the court’s archives and anyone who really wants to dig into your record will be able to find your old case file through the court. Fortunately, very few employers are likely to perform such a thorough check, and there is really no downside to having vacated an old conviction.

So how do you go about vacating a Washington conviction? Well first you must determine if you are eligible. Here is a simple guide that will help give you an idea of what requirements must be met before you can vacate an old conviction. Keep in mind that this is just a guide and does not cover every possible issue, the best way to find out if you qualify to vacate a conviction is by speaking with an experienced attorney about your personal situation.

If you were convicted of a misdemeanor you must:

  • Have complied completely with the orders of the court in that case.
  • Have no new criminal convictions since that conviction in any State.
  • Have no criminal charges against you pending in any State.
  • Never have had a misdemeanor vacated in the past in any State.
  • Wait 3 years from the date you complete all court requirements including probation. (This may be 5 years if your conviction was for domestic violence.)
  • You cannot vacate a conviction for Driving Under the Influence.

If you were convicted of a Felony the conditions are similar, but waiting periods are generally longer and there are more crimes that are never eligible.

  • Have complied completely with the orders of the court in that case.
  • Have no new convictions since that conviction. (Although in some cases if you are convicted of a misdemeanor after you are convicted of a felony it may actually be possible to vacate both of those convictions.)
  • Have no criminal charges against you pending in any State.
  • For a class C felony you must wait 5 years from the date you complete all court requirements including probation.
  • For a class B felony you must wait 10 years from the date you complete all court requirements including probation.
  • A class A felony, a serious violent crime, or a crime against a person may not be vacated from your record.

If you think you may be eligible to vacate your conviction your next step should be contacting an experienced attorney to discuss your situation. Findley & Rogers always offers free consultations and honest analysis.

It is important to remember that sealing a record in Washington State does not restore your firearm rights if those were revoked as a part of your conviction. A separate motion to restore your firearm rights must be made to restore those, and you should speak with an attorney to make sure you qualify for firearm right restoration before attempting to make such a motion. Information regarding restoring firearm rights can be found here:

www.seattlefirearmrights.com