Generally, you will know if you or an immediate family member has had a felony or misdemeanor conviction. However, if you are unsure, you may contact our office and we will be happy to investigate your records on your behalf.
If you’d like to find out yourself or to see what records are shown for your background check, you may go to https://fortress.wa.gov/wsp/watch/, where it costs $12 to run a background check through the Washington State Patrol. This is the resource through which most businesses in this state will run their background checks.
How a Criminal Defense Attorney Can Assist You
Just like any other legal motion in front of a court, a criminal defense attorney can provide assistance in, first, calculating whether you are eligible to file a motion to have your misdemeanor or felony charge vacated. If statutorily ineligible, the attorney will likely be able to tell you when you would become eligible.
Our attorneys will also assist you in the process of requesting expungement. There are several documents that you and the attorney will work together to acquire to make your motion to the court successful. A hearing date will be set, where the attorney can appear on behalf of the client. If the judge signs the order to vacate the conviction, a copy of this order is sent to the Washington State Patrol so that the conviction can be removed from the individual’s background check.
Vacating Felony Conviction Records
On all felony convictions, the first step in vacating a conviction is to obtain a certificate of discharge. A certificate of discharge is a document that’s filed in a felony case when someone has completed all of the required probation/community supervision.
This certificate of discharge will restore some of your civil rights, but not all, such as your right to own a firearm. The date of the certificate of discharge is extremely important in the process of vacating a conviction, because once this document is filed it starts the clock for the time that needs to run before an individual can file a motion to vacate his or her conviction.
If a certificate of discharge was not entered on your case, we can also petition the court for this. Sometimes it is not done automatically, depending on the timeline of your community supervision requirements. If a certificate of discharge was not entered, don’t worry. Often we can ask the court to backdate the certificate of discharge to the date you should have received it, and therefore start the clock from that date as being eligible to vacate your felony conviction.
Time Period Requirements for Vacating Types of Felonies:
The time period required before criminal record expungement may be requested will vary according to the type of felony conviction. Here are the general time parameters for three types of felony convictions:
- Class A Felonies: Class A felonies are those that were committed against a person or are considered a “violent offense.” Vacating these types of convictions is not possible. To determine whether your conviction falls into this categories, please call our office.
- Class B Felonies: 10 years must have passed since the issuance of the certificate of discharge (when all requirements of the case were completed).
- Class C Felonies: 5 years must have passed since the issuance of the certificate of discharge.
Once the requisite time period has elapsed, we can begin reviewing your case to ensure all requirements are met. Other requirements for vacating felony convictions are as follows:
- The person seeking a vacation cannot have any new criminal convictions.
- The person cannot have any pending criminal charges of any variety.
- The person has paid all fines, fees, and restitution. They must also have all other conditions of the sentence completed (these are the general requirements necessary to obtain the certificate of discharge).
Vacating a Misdemeanor:
Vacating a misdemeanor conviction involves a slightly different process than that of vacating a felony. Misdemeanors do not have certificates of discharge, but the concept is similar. Once you’ve completed the terms of probation, such as paying fines, completing classes, or other action the judge has ordered you to complete, the clock starts ticking on your ability to vacate your misdemeanor conviction.
Which Misdemeanors can be Vacated?
All misdemeanors can be vacated except the following:
- Those that are considered a violent offense or attempt to commit a violent offense under RCW 9.94A.030(54)
- DUI or physical control. Amendments from DUI to lesser charges are technically eligible, but these situations can be complicated. We can walk you through these scenarios to determine if you’re eligible.
- Sex offenses (or attempt to commit sex offenses, obscenity and pornography, and sexual exploitation of children).
General Requirements to Vacate a Misdemeanor Conviction:
To vacate a misdemeanor, there are several requirements that you must meet. These are as follows:
- You have never had another misdemeanor vacated.
- You are not currently charged with any new crimes.
- You have no new convictions since the time of the conviction that you’re trying to vacate.
- You are not currently restrained and have not been restrained in the last 5 years by a DV protection order, a no-contact order, an anti-harassment order, or a civil restraining order.
The time requirement for vacating a misdemeanor conviction varies on the type of misdemeanor. For non-DV misdemeanors, three years must have passed from the time you’ve completed all of the terms of your sentence, including probation time.
For DV misdemeanor convictions, five years must have passed from the time you’ve completed all of the terms of your sentence, including probation time. Even if the DV tag is removed due to negotiations, the court can still find that the case involved DV from reading the police reports, and therefore require you to wait the longer period of time.
What to Expect From Your Criminal Defense Attorney
Your attorney will be able to get most of the documents together relatively quickly, but it can be helpful to provide the attorney with any documents about your conviction that you may already have (such as the judgment and sentence). Depending on the complexity of the case, these motions are generally able to be brought in front of the court within a month or two of retaining us as your attorney.
We will keep you posted on the status of your case as we prepare to get it filed and heard in front of a judge. If the court grants the motion to vacate the conviction, it usually takes a week or two for the Washington State Patrol to process the order and remove the conviction from your background check.
An attorney can track down the necessary documents to make sure that you have completed the requirements of your case and are eligible to motion the court to vacate your conviction. We can also file the motions and orders necessary to clear this conviction off of your record. This includes filing the completed orders with the Washington State Patrol, who will then remove the conviction from your record. It is not necessary to live in the area where the conviction took place as attorneys are usually able to appear on the client’s behalf at any and all hearings.
Benefits of Criminal Record Expungement
Vacating a criminal conviction means that the conviction is removed from your criminal history, and taken off of your background checks, which are usually run through the Washington State Patrol. If your charge is vacated, it is erased from your background check as a conviction.
Vacating a conviction also means that when you fill out a job or housing application, you can legally say that you have not been convicted of this crime. In some ways, the vacated record allows you to essentially pretend the conviction never occurred, letting you move on with your life without the cloud of the conviction hanging over you.
The benefits to vacating a felony or misdemeanor conviction are enormous, and speaking to an attorney who knows how to get this done is imperative to a successful, conviction-free outcome.
Please call Russell & Hill today for a free consultation regarding the possibility of vacating your felony or misdemeanor criminal record. We want to see you put these convictions behind you and move on with your life without these past crimes holding you back.