Sometimes called a “rap sheet” your criminal record is the history of arrests, criminal charges, and outcomes of those criminal charges maintained by various entities, including law enforcement agencies the Washington State Patrol and the FBI. The record of those charges may affect your ability to get work, housing, public benefits, financial aid for education, to drive or to enjoy other rights or privileges, such as voting.
The law has a few procedures that allow those maintaining your criminal record to modify it. First, if your record is inaccurate, the procedure involves contacting the entity maintaining the incorrect record and requesting a change. Second, certain non-conviction data may be deleted under certain conditions. Third, the allows certain convictions to be vacated, by the court setting aside a guilty plea or guilty finding, allowing the defendant to enter a plea of not guilty, and the court dismissing the charge against the defendant (most cases). Finally, sealing a record is possible in very few circumstnaces, where the access to the record is limited or the record is destoried.
If vacating a criminal record is the most common form of changing my criminal record, what does it accomplish?
Once an offender's conviction is vacated, he or she may state for all purposes, including employment applciaitons, that he or she has not been convicted of that crime.
RCW 9.96.060 authorizes the sentencing court to vacate a conviction for a misdemeanor if:
1. The offender has completed all the terms of his or her sentence and more than three years have passed since completion;
2. No criminal charges are pending against the offender and he or she has not been convicted of a new crime in state or federal court;
3. The offender has not had the record of another conviction vacated; and
4. The offender has not been restrained within the last five years by a domestic violence protection order, a no-contact order, an anti-harassment order, or a civil restraining order.
In addition, the offense must not be:
1. A violent offense, as defined in RCW 9.94A.030, or an attempt to commit a violent offense;
2. A violation of RCW 46.61.502 (driving under the influence), 46.61.504 (physical control of a vehicle while under the influence), or 9.91.20 (operating a railroad, steamboat, or vehicle while intoxicated);
4. An offense involving domestic violence in some circumstances.
Believe it or not, felonies are usually easier to get vacated then misdemeanors. RCW 9.94A.640 provides for vacating some felony convictions. An offender who has been discharged may request, by motion, that the sentencing court vacate the conviction. But the record of conviction may not be cleared if:
1. Criminal charges are pending against the offender in state or federal court;
2. The conviction was for a violent offense as defined in RCW 9.94A.030 or a crime against persons as defined in RCW 43.43.830;
3. The offender has been convicted of a new crime in state or federal court since discharge;
4. The offense is a class B felony and less than ten years have passed since discharge;
5. The offense is a class C felony described in RCW 46.61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6) and less than ten years have passed since discharge, or the offense is any other class C felony and less than five years have passed since discharge.
Curious about Vacate and Seal? Here are answers.