The rules that apply to requests for expungement of non-conviction history or vacating conviction data in Kitsap County or Thurston County are the same rules that apply throughout the state of Washington.
Many people want to know how long a DUI or other criminal conviction will haunt them into the future. Since criminal records can impact employment, professional licenses, housing, gun rights, and more, it is understandable that clients want to know about options to make all arrest and conviction data “disappear” in the future.
Expunge vs. Vacate
Unfortunately, it isn’t quite that simple. First, many people use incorrect terms. Some will say they want their record expunged (non-conviction records surrounding your arrest are physically destroyed) but they really mean they want it vacated (your conviction data is removed from your record). A court will never physically destroy court records so this is not the same as non-conviction data that is held by WSP.
If you have conviction data or some alternative resolution that you want the court to seal or vacate, this is a very different process than the expungement request to WSP. There are many rules to the various request as well as different timelines. Unfortunately, many people do not qualify to have their conviction record vacated or their non-conviction data expunged.
Can I request my conviction data be vacated immediately after I resolve my case?
No. Depending on the criminal charge and the conditions of the resolution, you must complete the waiting period crime-free. The waiting period depends on the seriousness of your crime. You may need to wait three, five, or ten years prior to requesting your conviction data be vacated. Some criminal convictions can never be vacated.
Can my court records be expunged?
Only non-conviction law enforcement records can be expunged. “Non-conviction records” are things like data regarding an investigation of you that did not result in a criminal charge, the prosecutor charged you but then dismissed the charge, or you were found not guilty at trial.
To expunge non-conviction data, you can hire a lawyer who specializes in this area or contact Washington State Patrol (WSP) to determine whether the expungement request is an option for you. Only Washington State Patrol can expunge this history and it is at WSP’s discretion. There are many reasons you can be denied.
How do I make sure a future employer can’t see my criminal History?
Refer to the information above. This may be impossible. Even if your conviction is vacated, there are always exceptions for the court and law enforcement to view this history. So, it will depend on the type of job you are seeking and the level of criminal background check required for your employment or security clearance. In many cases, vacating a conviction will allow you to truthfully report that you have not been convicted of a crime. However, this is not the same thing as removing all “evidence” of the criminal charge.
Is it worth trying?
Just because it is challenging, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider meeting with a lawyer in the future. A lawyer who practices in this area of law can advise whether you qualify to have your conviction data vacated or non-conviction records expunged based on your unique situation.
Sometimes, a person might “almost” qualify for the request but simply need to wait longer and remain crime free. Additionally, a person might also need to complete a step or two before the three, five, or ten year waiting period can start ticking.
Don’t give up hope
While your crime may not qualify to be vacated, it never hurts to ask again after a period of time. The law may change. The legislature can always change the rules and timelines so there is never a guarantee that you can have history vacated or expunged. Likewise, there remains the possibility that the legislature may later qualify a crime to be vacated that was previously disqualified.
If you feel that your criminal history is holding you back, it is best to consult with an attorney who regularly handles expungement requests or manages cases to be reviewed to vacate conviction data.
The attorneys at Witt Law Group do not give opinions, advise, or handle any matters involving expungement or requests to vacate conviction records. We also do not make any assurances or guarantees to current clients with respect to how future expungement/vacating requests will be viewed or resolved. We are familiar with two local law firms that handle these cases and can advise on such matters and happy to provide that referral information.