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Vacate Your Criminal Convictions

Vacation Attorney

Anyone who has had to live with a criminal conviction knows how difficult it can make your life. You are constantly reminded of your mistakes every time you apply for a job, fill out a rental application, or are trying to get more education or training. Whether you are eligible to clean up your criminal history is mostly a matter of time and having no new criminal convictions.

Whether a person is eligible to have their criminal convictions vacated (or undone) is based on specific Washington state statutes. Please note that Washington does not use the phrase "expungement" like many other states. The proper "post conviction relief" term is vacate. If you do a google search for an expungement attorney, you likely missed a few who handle these cases, but you found us, and that's really what matters.

For most individuals, you either meet the criteria or you don't. For a select few it can be a bit more complicated and may require additional steps in order for you to meet the eligibility requirements of the statute. This is where having a knowledgeable attorney familiar with vacating criminal convictions can save you money, time, and a huge headache.

In this section we will explore how to vacate a criminal conviction, what the eligibility requirements are, and some common questions and headaches that arise.

Whether you are attempting this on your own (not recommended) or hiring an attorney (recommended) the first step is to order a copy of your WATCH report from the Washington State Patrol (WSP). This is the official record of your arrests and criminal convictions and the first thing you will need in order to see if you are eligible to vacate any criminal convictions. There is a small fee of $10-$15.  You can obtain a WATCH report from the WSP here.

If at any point in your research you wish to speak with a member of our experienced legal team, please call us at 253-383-3328.


Reasons to vacate a criminal conviction

There are a number of important reasons a person may want to vacate their past criminal convictions. Most people do this for a specific reason like trying to obtain a specific job, clearing up their record, or applying for schools or certifications. Some people have a more emotional reason and clearing up their record of a past criminal conviction helps them overcome past mistakes often attached to a difficult period in their life. Whatever your reason, there are concrete benefits to vacating past criminal convictions. Some of these being:

  • Legally annuls the conviction
  • Can truthfully state on an application that you have never been convicted of that crime
  • No longer on the public WATCH report or the FBI database
  • No longer subject to any penalties or disqualifications due to the conviction
  • The conviction cannot be used to enhance a sentence, but it can be used in a later criminal prosecution.

NOTE: Vacating a criminal conviction will NOT restore your firearm rights. That is a separate process that our firm can also help you with.

You can find more about restoring your gun rights here.


 Vacating marijuana offenses

Due to the legalization of recreational marijuana use, the laws and procedures regarding vacating prior marijuana convictions have been streamlined, and the legislature removed the court's ability to deny the vacation of your criminal charge if you meet the specific criteria below:

1. You were 21 years of age or older at the time of the offense.

2. Marijuana offenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Any offense under RCW 69.50.4014 from July 1, 2004 onward;
  • RCW 69.50.401(e), from March 21, 1979 to July 1, 2004;
  • RCW 69.50.401(d), from May 21, 1971 to March 21, 1979; and
  • any equivalent misdemeanor ordinance.

Many cities and counties have made the process to vacate old marijuana convictions very easy so that any citizen can move to have their marijuana conviction vacated by the court. The citizen needs to file the form CrRLJ 09.0800 "Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Marijuana Conviction" and CrRLJ 09.0870 "Order on Motion to Vacate Marijuana Conviction" which can be found on the Washington court forms website here. You do not have to provide the prosecutor's office with notice of your motion, this is strictly handled by the court.

However, if you do not feel comfortable handling the whole process on your own and wish to hire an attorney to take care of everything for you, please call us and our experienced legal staff can get started right away.


Vacating misdemeanors

RCW 9.96.060 is the controlling statute for vacating misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offenses. Vacation of a conviction releases you from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense. A person whose conviction has been vacated may state that he or she has never been convicted of that crime.

Excluded Offenses

The following misdemeanor convictions are not eligible to be vacated:

  • A violation of chapter RCW 9A.44 (sex offenses), except you can vacate a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender under RCW 9A.44.132
  • A violation of chapter RCW 9.68 (obscenity and pornography)
  • A violation of chapter RCW 9.68A (sexual exploitation of children)
  • A violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030 or an attempt to commit a violent offense.
  • Driving while under the influence (DUI), RCW 46.61.502
  • Actual physical control while under the influence, RCW 46.61.504
  • Operating a railroad, steamboat, vehicle, etc., while intoxicated, RCW 9.91.020

If you are not sure whether your prior conviction is one of these excludable offenses, your first step should be to order a WATCH report from the State Patrol as discussed at the top of this page. If you are still unsure, give us a call and one of our experienced legal staff can assist you.

Eligibility Requirements

If you meet the following criteria a court may, in it's discretion, vacate the conviction. Please note that if your conviction was a domestic violence offense, additional criteria apply, discussed below.

  • Three years have passed since the end of ALL conditions of your sentence. This includes any time on probation, treatment, classes, and all financial obligations have been paid. Note that this three year clock begins once you finish all of these criteria. See timeline examples below
  • You have not been convicted of a new crime in this state, another state, or in federal or tribal court in the last three years.
  • You have no new pending criminal charges in this state, another state, or in federal or tribal court, as of the date you file the motion to vacate.
  • You are not currently restrained by a no-contact order, domestic violence protection order, anti-harassment order, or a civil restraining order which restrains one party from contacting the other party and you were not previously restrained by such an order and found to have committed one or more violations of the order in the five years prior to the vacation application.

Ex. 1 - Convicted of a Non-DV crime in 2002. 2 years of probation, plus ordered to pay fines.  You pay all your fines before the 2 year probation is up, and you have no other problems that extend your probation time. This means the 3 year clock starts to run at the end of your 2 year probation period, or 2004. Thus, you may be eligible to vacate your conviction in 2007.

Ex. 2 - Convicted of Non-DV crime in 2002. 2 years probation, plus ordered to pay fines. This time you were unable to pay off all your fines before your probation was up. You paid off all your fines 3 years after the conviction, in 2005. In this scenario the 3 year clock would begin in 2005, not 2004, as in the first example. Thus, you would not be eligible to vacate your conviction until 2008.

Domestic Violence Offenses

If you want to try and vacate a criminal conviction that involved domestic violence, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Five years have passed since you completed ALL conditions of your sentence. This includes any time on probation, completion of any treatment ordered, and all financial obligations have been paid.
  • You have not been convicted of any new crime in this state, another state, or federal court or tribal court in the three years prior to the vacation application
  • You must not have been convicted of two or more domestic violence offenses stemming from different incidents. If you are trying to vacate more than one conviction that arose out of a single incident, none of those count as a previous conviction.
  • Provide the prosecuting attorney's office that prosecuted you with timely notice of your motion and declaration for order vacating conviction and file the original notice with the court.

If you are not sure whether your prior conviction meets one of these criteria, your first step should be to order a WATCH report from the State Patrol as discussed at the top of this page. If you are still unsure, give us a call and one of our experienced vacation attorneys or our legal staff and we can assist you.

Prior Offenses

If the crime you want to have vacated is considered a "prior offense" then you must meet some additional criteria. As you will learn below, the "prior offense" in this category deal almost exclusively with crimes involving driving or operating vehicles while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Most notably, if you have a prior offense conviction it can extend the wait period before you are eligible to vacate your old conviction.

Additional Criteria

  • The offense is not an excludable offense from being vacated, as described above
  • You have not been convicted of a new crime in this state, another state, or federal court since the date you were sentenced on the crime you wish to have vacated
  • Three years have passed since you completed ALL conditions of your sentence. This includes all restitution, treatment, probation, and financial obligations, RCW 9.96.060(2)(g)
  • You have not had any subsequent alcohol or drug violations within 10 years of the date of the arrest for the prior offense,
  • More than 10 years have passed since the date of the arrest for the prior offense.

What is a Prior Offense?

According to RCW 46.61.5055(14), your conviction is a "prior offense" if:

Original Conviction for the following

  • Driving under the influence (DUI), RCW 46.61.502;
  • Actual physical control while under the influence (Physical Control), RCW 46.61.504;
  • Commercial Vehicle DUI/Physical Control, RCW 46.25.110;
  • Watercraft DUI (BUI), RCW 79A.60.040(2)
  • Aircraft DUI, RCW 47.68.220
  • Nonhighway vehicle DUI, RCW 46.09.470(2);
  • Snowmobile DUI, RCW 46.10.490(2);
  • Equivalent local ordinance or out-of-state statute for any of the above offenses.

Amended Conviction for the following:

If you were originally charged with DUI, Physical Control, or an equivalent local ordinance, or Vehicular Homicide (RCW 46.61.520), or Vehicular Assault (RCW 46.61.522), but you were ultimately convicted of:

  • Negligent Driving 1st degree, RCW 46.61.5249
  • Reckless Driving, RCW 46.61.500
  • Reckless Endangerment, RCW 9A.36.050
  • Equivalent local ordinance or out-of-state statute for the above offenses.

If you were originally charged with Watercraft DUI, RCW 79A.60.040(2) but convicted of:

  • Operating a Watercraft in a reckless manner, RCW 79A.60.040(1), or
  • Equivalent local ordinance

If you were originally charged with Aircraft DUI, RCW 47.68.220, but convicted of:

  • Operating an Aircraft in a careless or reckless manner, RCW 47.68.220, or
  • Equivalent local ordinance

Deferred Sentences for the following:

If you were originally charged with DUI, Physical Control, or an equivalent local ordinance, or Vehicular Homicide (RCW 46.61.520), or Vehicular Assault (RCW 46.61.522), but a deferred sentence was imposed for:

  • Negligent Driving 1st degree, RCW 46.61.5249
  • Reckless Driving, RCW 46.61.500
  • Reckless Endangerment, RCW 9A.36.050
  • Equivalent local ordinance or out-of-state statute for the above offenses.

Prostitution Convictions as a Victim

If you are seeking to vacate a prostitution offense that you committed as a result of being a victim of:

  • Trafficking, RCW 9A.40.100
  • Promoting prostitution in the first degree, RCW 9A.88.070
  • Promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, RCW 9.68A.101, or
  • Trafficking in persons under the trafficking victims protection act of 2000, 22 U.S.C. 7101 et seq.
  •  you must meet the following criteria:

You must also meet a number of additional criteria that is both general, no criminal charges pending or criminal convictions as well as very specific criteria depending on your prior convictions and specific situation. You can find additional information on the Washington Courts webpage or you can contact our office and we can help provide you additional information or discuss the process of hiring our firm to handle your case for you.

Remember that vacating a conviction is always discretionary for the judge who hears the motion and can be objected to by the government. This is another reason that hiring an experienced attorney familiar with these types of motions is important. We are familiar with what prosecutors and judges are looking for and can present the best possible information to increase the chance of the judge granting the request.


Vacating a Felony

Over the last few years, our State legislature has passed new legislation allowing for more felony convictions to be eligible to be vacated and they've tried to make the process easier. However, vacating felony convictions can come with some specific and unique problems that can arise in the process. These can include, a change in the law, no certificate of discharge was issued, whether wash-out periods are met, and problems with incomplete or lost records necessary to prove you meet all the necessary criteria. An experienced felony vacation attorney will should know all about these issues that can arise and how each court handles these cases.

Like vacating a misdemeanor, you don't have to hire an attorney to vacate a felony conviction, however, hiring an attorney experienced with vacating felonies all over western Washington will give you the best opportunity for a positive outcome. A bonus with hiring an vacation attorney is that they do everything for you; they gather all the documents, they file all the motions, deal with the prosecutors, and they appear on your behalf before the judge, so you never have to go to court. Our expungement attorneys will also file the necessary paperwork with the courts and law enforcement to ensure your records are accurately updated. We here at South Sound Law Group take great pride in helping our clients clean up their record from past mistakes so they can achieve all they want in their future. We hope the information provided will help you decide if vacating a felony conviction is right for you. If you want the peace of mind of letting us take over the process, give our experienced legal team a call and we can explained the entire process, the costs, and general timeline for these types of cases. 

Eligibility Requirements 

The controlling statute for vacating felony convictions is RCW 9.94A.640

An applicant must meet certain requirements in order to be eligible to vacate a felony conviction. Unlike vacating misdemeanors, the criteria to vacate a felony is a bit more streamlined, as you will see below. If you intend to vacate multiple convictions, each one must qualify independently.

  • You were discharged under RCW 9.94A.637 - This requires proof of a certificate of discharge from DOC, see below.
  • You have no pending criminal charges in any court of this state, another state, or in any federal court.

AND

if a Class B Felony:

  • You have not been convicted of any new crime in this state, another state, or federal court in the last 10 years.
  • At least 10 years have passed since the later of your:
    • release from community custody;
    • release from full or partial confinement, or
    • sentencing date;

If a Class C Felony:

  • You have not been convicted of any new crime in this state, another state, or federal court in the last 5 years
  • The offense you committed was a class C felony, other than a class C felony described in RCW 46.61.504(6), and at least five years have passed since the later of your: 
    • release from community custody;
    • release from full or partial confinement; or
    • sentencing date

AND

The offense you were convicted of is NOT one of the following offenses:

  • A violent offense (including ALL class A felonies) as defined in RCW 9.94A.030:
  • A crime against a person as defined in RCW 43.43.830, except you can vacate a conviction if it was for one of the following crimes AND the conviction did not include a firearm, deadly weapon, or sexual motivation enhancement:
    • Assault in the second degree, RCW 9A.36.021
    • Assault in the third degree, RCW 9A.36.031, when not committed against a law enforcement officer or peace officer
    • Robbery in the second degree, RCW 9A.56.210

Certificate of Discharge

A certificate of discharge is issued by the Department of Corrections (DOC) after all conditions of the sentence have been completed, including payment of the Legal Financial Obligations (LFOs). Often a certificate of discharge is never issued by DOC. In some cases, a person will be discharged but may not have completed all conditions of their sentence, which can prevent the court from vacating your conviction. In these unique instances, you or your attorney will have to present separate motions to the Court for an issuance of a Certificate of Discharge or to waive proof of completion for sentencing conditions. Both of these situations can get very complicated very quickly, which is why we always recommend you hire an experienced attorney familiar with vacating felonies.

  • Special Note: If you have been convicted of a new crime after the felony you want vacated, but a certificate of discharge was never issued for that felony, you may still be eligible to have your felony vacated. This is very fact specific to each person and each court, but an experienced vacation attorney has many tools and procedures at their disposal to try and obtain a favorable result.

As always, our experienced legal team is always here to help answer any of your questions you may have, and can fully discuss what hiring our firm entails, the costs, and the entire process. If you are interested in removing old convictions from your record give us a call today.


A Note on Gun Rights

Please be aware that vacating a felony conviction will not automatically restore your gun rights. You will have to go through a separate process which is controlled by a different statute. Luckily, we here at South Sound Law Group are experienced firearm rights attorneys as well, and we are able to handle your gun rights restoration as well. Most of our clients will hire us to vacate convictions and restore firearm rights at the same time as there is some cross over of resources.

You can find more information about restoring your gun rights here.

Contact Us

We are located next to the building that holds the Pierce County District Court, Pierce County Superior Court, and the Tacoma Municipal Court. We have free client parking in the alley located between South G St. and Yakima Ave. If you have any trouble finding our location or have a question about scheduling an appointment give us a call at 253-383-3328.

705 South 9th St
Ste 204

Tacoma, WA 98405
253-383-3328
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri: 08:30am - 05:00pm

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