Criminal records in Washington may be sealed or destroyed by a process called “expungement” or “vacating.” If a record is sealed, that person can legally tell people, such as employers, that they have never been convicted of the offense. In the case of a felony expungement, the person who successfully seals his or her records regains the right to vote and the right to own firearms. The expungement procedure varies, depending on whether the criminal record was a juvenile or adult conviction.
Check to ensure that your juvenile court record was not a sex offense or a Class A felony (such as murder, rape or possession of explosive devices; for a complete list, see page 35 in the resources section). Expungement is not available for these offenses.
Do not commit any offense or any crime for a specified time period based on the class of the juvenile offense. Class B offenders must be crime-free for five years; Class C offenders and those convicted of gross misdemeanors must be crime-free for two years.
Pay any and all restitution ordered by the court. Do not have any court proceedings pending against you.
Draft a motion to the court that convicted you and request that the record be sealed. Provide a copy of this document to the prosecuting attorney’s office. Note that pre-made forms are available. You may obtain these forms by calling 360-705-5328 (The Administrative Office of the Courts).
Check to ensure that your felony was a nonviolent offense and not a “crime against a person.” Examples of non-violent offenses are auto-theft or burglary; crimes against persons include robbery or assault.
Complete your sentence and any probation or parole requirements, so that you are completely discharged from the Washington Corrections Department or the Parole/Probation Department.
Spend a specified number of years as an active member of your community and stay crime-free. For Class B Felonies, adults must wait 10 years before applying for an expungement. For Class C Felonies, adults must wait 5 years before applying for an expungement. For misdemeanors, adults must wait at least 3 years (unless the misdemeanor involved domestic violence, in which case the waiting period is 5 years). To check on the class of conviction, consult the Adult Sentencing Guidelines for Washington, located in the resources section.
Draft a motion requesting that your sentence be vacated. Serve a copy of your motion on the prosecuting attorney. Just as for juvenile convictions, pre-made forms are available. You may obtain these forms by calling 360-705-5328 (The Administrative Office of the Courts).
Based in Traverse City, Mich., George Lawrence has been writing professionally since 2009. His work primarily appears on various websites. An avid outdoorsman, Lawrence holds Bachelor of Arts degrees in both criminal justice and English from Michigan State University, as well as a Juris Doctor from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where he graduated with honors.