The Basics of Vacating or Expunging Misdemeanor Cases in Washington 

Washington law defines a misdemeanor as “An offense punishable by no more than 90 days in jail and $1,000.” A “gross misdemeanor” is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a maximum fine of $5,000. For both types of misdemeanors, both a jail and a fine can be imposed. Often, for a misdemeanor, a person is sentenced to probation or community service.

Many people believe that a misdemeanor conviction automatically disappears from their criminal record when they have completed their sentence. This is not true. Unless you take measures to have the conviction vacated, it will follow you for life.

Although you can honestly check you have never been convicted of a felony on a job application, bank loan, or other documents, the misdemeanor conviction is still on your record and will likely be discovered by those doing a background check. This may prevent you from getting the job, the loan, a new apartment, a professional license, and other consequences. But there is hope.

Vacating Your Misdemeanor Conviction

Washington law defines expunge as “To physically destroy information.” There is no provision in the law for expunging a misdemeanor, but you may have the conviction vacated and your record sealed. This is a two-step process. The first step is to see if you qualify. The following requirements must be met for you to have your conviction vacated:

  • You must have completed all the terms of your sentence, including paying all fines.
  • It has been three years since you completed all the terms of your sentence.
  • You have not been convicted in any state of any state or federal criminal offense since the completion of your sentence and there are no charges pending.
  • You do not have any active restraining or protective orders against you.
  • If there ever was a restraining order against you, you must have not violated it in the past five years, and it must not be currently active.

Under the New Hope Act that went into effect in June 2019, you may petition for the vacation of a conviction for failing to register as a sex offender.

Misdemeanor Convictions That May Not Be Vacated

The law does not allow you to have your misdemeanor conviction vacated if it was for any of the following offenses:

  • A violent offense or attempt to commit a violent offense.
  • A conviction for an alcohol-related offense, such as driving under the influence (DUI), and there was a second conviction for an alcohol-related offense within 10 years of the first conviction.
  • Obscenity.
  • Most sex-related offenses.

Effect of Vacating the Misdemeanor Conviction

If the conviction is vacated, you can honestly and legally say you were never convicted of that crime. Unfortunately, your court file will not be destroyed. To have your record sealed so it is inaccessible to the public, you must take one more step and ask the court to order your record sealed.

For a free confidential consultation to discuss vacating your misdemeanor conviction, contact us at The Nahajski Firm via email or phone at 206-621-0500.