In 2019, the Washington State legislature made significant changes to the statutes regulating how and when criminal misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions can be vacated. Known as the New Hope Act, those with Washington criminal history can, under most circumstances, have their criminal conviction record wiped clean, so long as they otherwise qualify statutorily. Prior to this act, a person could only vacate one conviction in their lifetime and ANY subsequent criminal conviction would make them ineligible to have the original conviction vacated. Now, multiple convictions can be vacated and subsequent convictions don’t act as an automatic disqualifier.
Review the information below to see if you qualify or call us for a consultation. We have helped hundreds clear their criminal records and now that the process has been made even more accessible, we hope to help even more.
Benefits of Vacating a Conviction
A court allows a previous conviction to be vacated by withdrawing the original finding of guilt, reinstating a not guilty plea and then dismissing the charge altogether. As a result, you can legally say that you were never convicted of that crime or of any other convictions that were vacated. This can help with respect to employment, housing, and credit issues not to mention the potential for the restoration of lost civil liberties and, for some charges, regaining the ability to travel into Canada.
Eligibility for Vacating Misdemeanor and Gross Misdemeanor Convictions
The eligibility for vacating most non-felony convictions is somewhat straightforward. However, certain offenses are not eligible to be vacated under current Washington law and others have specific eligibility requirements. What follows are the conditions required in order to have a criminal conviction vacated. Those that cannot be vacated are noted and those with additional special conditions are dealt with on a separate page.
- A conviction must not have been for an “excluded offense” – Excluded offenses currently include:
- Sex offenses other than failure to register
- Obscenity and pornography offenses
- Sexual exploitation of children
- “Violent Offenses” defined in RCW 9.94A.030 or attempts to commit violent offenses
- DUI, Physical Control, or Operating a Railroad While Intoxicated
- Special conditions for “prior offenses” – These are DUI related offenses that resulted in convictions for charges other than an “excluded” offense and are covered in Vacating DUI related offenses.
- Special conditions for domestic violence offenses – Most domestic violence related convictions can be vacated but there is heightened scrutiny applied by the court. This is covered in Vacating Domestic Violence related offenses.
- Prostitution offenses – Prostitution offenses where the conviction was based upon a charge for which the person was also a victim of sex trafficking or promoting prostitution are eligible but with special conditions.
- All conditions of sentence must be completed – This means the payment of all fines and legal financial obligations, as well as any ordered treatment and any other affirmative conditions of probation. Essentially the case must have been successfully closed.
- Sufficient time has elapsed – For most offenses that means that at least three years have elapsed since the successful completion of probation and that there have been no new convictions in the last three years.
- No criminal charges are pending at the time of the application in any state or federal court.
- Not currently restrained by a protection order – Also, there cannot have been a violation of any protection order in the five years preceding the request to vacate.
Process for Vacating Criminal History
Once you have determined that you meet the eligibility requirements of having your misdemeanor conviction vacated, the next step is to file the proper motion, declaration, and proposed order with the court and serve it on the prosecutor. The documents need to be filed with the sentencing court and served on the prosecuting attorney’s office of that jurisdiction. If the prosecutor can be convinced to agree to the order, the process will become that much more efficient. Courts will often grant agreed motions to vacate. Otherwise a motion needs to be noted before the sentencing court and you’ll need to be prepared to convince the judge that the conviction should be vacated, possibly over the objection of the state. Even if you qualify for vacation, it is a discretionary decision for the court and the judge could deny the motion. Once an order vacating the conviction is granted, it must be forwarded to the appropriate law enforcement agencies so that they know to remove the conviction from the record.
We Can Help
The New Hope Act has given countless people the ability to clear their criminal records where that ability did not previously exist. Though people can attempt this process on their own, having an attorney experienced in vacating criminal history records will help expedite the process and ensure that the information is updated with the proper agencies as required by law. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact us. At Milios Defense, we have been vacating criminal history conviction records for over 25 years. We can help.