Having a criminal record can affect multiple areas of your life. If you were unjustly convicted, you may be able to vacate your conviction and get a second chance. Similarly, Washington Law allows some individuals to vacate certain convictions after they complete the terms of their sentences – as long as they do not receive criminal charges in the meantime.
What Is Vacating a Conviction?
In Washington, vacating a conviction can refer to 3 separate legal processes. Vacating a conviction can be a way to change your plea, appeal a verdict, or “clean up” your criminal record.
If you pleaded guilty due to ineffective counsel, court bias, or juror misconduct, or the court breached its plea agreement, you can file a motion to change your plea or vacate your conviction. If this motion is successful, prosecutors may have the opportunity to pursue your case again.
Essentially, it will be as if your plea, trial, and/or verdict never happened, and you will need to go through the criminal justice system all over again.
Otherwise, the court may dismiss “information or indictment against the offender,” which means you will be released from all penalties of your offense, and you will be legally allowed to deny the conviction. Usually, the court only offers this type of vacation after you complete the terms of your sentence and pay all relevant fines.
According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington:
“When a court ‘vacates’ a conviction, it withdraws a guilty verdict and dismisses the case.”
Although the conviction will not be completely expunged or destroyed, it will be clear that the case was dismissed or vacated whenever it appears on background checks.
Vacating Records of Conviction: The Requirements
Anyone can ask for a legal “do-over” if they have just cause and meet the deadlines to file a motion, but only certain offenders can vacate their records of conviction. The process for “vacation of offender's record of conviction” is spelled out in §9.94A.640 and §9.96.060 of the Washington State Legislature’s Revised Code of Washington (RCW). The rules are different for felonies and misdemeanor offenses.
According to RCW 9.94A.640L, an offender may NOT have the record of conviction cleared if:
- They have criminal charges pending against them.
- The offense was violent, sexually motivated, or committed against a law enforcement officer.
- The offense involved a firearm.
- The offense was a class B or C felony, and the offender has been convicted of a new crime 5-10 years prior to their application for vacation.
- The offense was a class B or C felony, and it has been less than 5-10 years since the applicant was sentenced, released from full or partial confinement, or released from community custody.
- The offense was a felony DUI.
Of course, there are exceptions for all of these rules, and numerous different statutes apply. The best way to know if you are eligible to have your conviction vacated is to speak to an attorney.
To illustrate: Attorney Albert Guadagno learned from the King County post-conviction prosecutor that Washington State recently made it possible to vacate some class B and C felonies, such as Assault 2 and 3 and Robbery 2 charges.
It’s worth a call to Guadagno Law, PLLC, to determine if Attorney Guadagno can assist you in vacating even the most (previously) unlikely charges. He can even help you pursue the possibility of vacating multiple convictions at one time.
Explore Your Legal Options
Whether you want to vacate a wrongful conviction or improve your conviction record and background checks, Guadagno Law, PLLC can help. Attorney Albert Guadagno is on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to address all your questions and legal concerns, and with experience as a former prosecutor, he brings invaluable experience to your case.
Our firm offers free consultations and payment plans, and we have a track record of success.
Speak with Attorney Guadagno directly by calling us at (206) 895-6800 or sending us a message online today.