In the State of Washington, juvenile criminal convictions and other dispositions are a matter of public record. This means that the public, whether potential employers or curious onlookers, can easily obtain existing juvenile criminal history information. Additionally, certain juvenile conviction will result a prohibition against firearm possession, a prohibition that will remain in effect until officially lifted. The vacating of the juvenile record is often the only obstacle standing in the way of restoring the right to possess a firearm. Fortunately, Washington law allows the vacation and sealing of juvenile criminal records in most cases.
In 2014, the Washington State Legislature made sweeping changes to the laws as they relate to the vacating and sealing of juvenile criminal history records. Streamlining the pre-existing law, courts became required to automatically set an administrative hearing for the purpose of sealing a record at the time of the original case disposition. This administrative hearing is set after the date the juvenile turns 18 and is anticipated to have completed any confinement and probationary terms. Finally, the victim and prosecutor must be given notice of the hearing and an opportunity to object.
At the hearing, the court is REQUIRED to seal the juvenile record so long as:
- The offense was not a “most serious offense”, sex offense, or drug offense
- All terms and conditions of probation, including restitution, have been completed
- The court finds a “compelling” reason not to seal the record
If any of the above apply, a formal hearing will be set. This statute has recently been further been amended, eliminating two of the potential obstacles to sealing the record. The first this that the court will no longer be required to provide notice and an opportunity to object to the victim. The second, and this one is major, the court no longer will have the discretion to refuse to seal the record on the grounds of “compelling reasons” not to. These changes go into effect beginning in 2021
Sealing Juvenile Records – Offenses Prior to 2014
The automatic record sealing provisions spelled out in RCW 13.50.260 only apply to offenses occurring after that statute went into effect. Juvenile offenses occurring prior the middle of 2014 can also be sealed, but there is more of procedure involved. For those cases, the party bears the responsibility of filing and noting a motion to vacate the order of conviction and to seal the records. It will not be done automatically. The party must also give adequate notice of the motion and hearing date to the prosecutor and any interested law enforcement agency.
At a hearing to vacate and seal records under this statute, the court is REQUIRED to grant the motion if:
- There are no pending criminal charges at the time of the motion,
- There is no proceeding seeking a diversion agreement,
- There exists no requirement to register as a sex offender,
- Any ordered restitution order has been paid to the victim, AND
- For Class A felonies, the person has not been convicted of any criminal offenses in the preceding five years and has not been convicted of Rape in the First or Second Degree of Indecent Liberties by Forcible Compulsion
- For Class B and C felonies and non-felonies (gross misdemeanors and misdemeanors) there have been no new convictions in the preceding two years.
Destruction of Juvenile Records
In limited situations, the entire juvenile record can be destroyed. RCW 13.50.050(17)(a)(i) sets out the eligibility for the destruction of juvenile records. In pertinent part:
- The person must be at least 18 years of age.
- The criminal history consists solely of one (1) diversion agreement entered after June 11, 2008.
- That two years have elapsed since the successful completion of the diversion.
- That no criminal proceeding is pending.
- That no restitution is owing.
In effect, only those whose sole history is comprised of one diversion agreement can have the juvenile records completely destroyed as opposed to simply being sealed.
Contact Us for Help
At Milios Defense, we have been helping clients vacate, seal, and destroy their criminal records for over 25 years. Though the laws have changed over time, most of those changes have been beneficial to the person seeking to seal their records. If you have questions or would like to set up a consultation, please feel free to contact us.