Carrying the burden of a felony conviction can be stressful and limiting. The good news is that under certain circumstances, and by following a set of procedures, a record of felony conviction can be vacated in Washington State. But what exactly does vacation of criminal records mean?
What Does Vacation of Criminal Records Mean?
A vacation of a record of felony conviction releases the individual from all penalties and disabilities that resulted from the offense they were charged with. Once a criminal record is vacated, your criminal history with that charge will be gone for regular purposes but it does not affect or prevent use of the record of felony conviction in a later criminal prosecution.
How do I qualify for vacation of criminal record?
A court may clear the record of conviction in one of the following three ways:
a. Permitting the offender to withdraw their guilty plea and to enter a plea of not guilty
b. Setting aside the guilty verdict if the offender was convicted after they entered a plea of not guilty
c. Dismissing the information or indictment against the offender
Once a record of conviction is cleared, the individual can move forward as though they were never convicted of that crime, including when they respond to questions of felony convictions on employment applications.
What the law does not do:
Vacation of a record of felony conviction does not restore the right to possess a firearm, which has its own legal requirements under RCW 9.41.040.
A conviction vacated on or after July 28, 2019, will remain on the books as a prior conviction for the purpose of charging an individual with a similar crime that occurs on or after that date. The prior conviction may be used to establish an ongoing pattern of abuse for purposes of RCW 9.94A.535.
The law does not automatically vacate a record of felony conviction but many offenders who have an effective Certificate of Discharge under RCW 9.94A.637 can apply to the sentencing court for a vacation of their record of felony conviction by filing a motion with the court in which they were convicted.
Who does not qualify for a vacation of criminal records?
There are many reasons that an individual may not qualify to have the record of their felony conviction vacated. See RCW 9.94A.640 for a complete list.
Complete the Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Record of Felony Conviction
If you meet the requirements listed in RCW 9.94A.640 with regard to the record of felony conviction you are asking the court to vacate, your next step is to complete the Motion and Declaration for Order Vacating Record of Felony Conviction form CR 08.0900. This is the form that will be used by the court to determine whether you are eligible to have your record of felony conviction vacated.
- It can be helpful to review the court file or the court docket for the offense you are asking the court to vacate to gather the information you need to fill out the form.
- Depending on the county of the court in which you were convicted, you may need to obtain copies of your judgment and sentence, certificate of discharge, and criminal history records and attach them to your motion.
- Read the local court rules or contact the clerk of the court where you will file your motion to find out if these requirements, or any other local requirements, apply to your motion.
- Make at least two copies of the signed motion and declaration form.
Scheduling a hearing
Once you have filled out and signed the motion and declaration form, your next step is to schedule a hearing for your motion. Hearings are scheduled through the clerk of the court where you were sentenced. Contact the clerk and ask for the date and time for the hearing.
Next, complete the notice of motion form used by that court to schedule a hearing. Make at least two copies of the notice. File the original motion and notice document with the clerk of the court and on that same day, you will need to provide a copy of the motion and notice documents to the prosecuting
attorney’s office that prosecuted you. Tip: keep copies for your records.
Granting your motion for order vacating record of felony conviction
On the day scheduled for the hearing, the judge will hear your motion for order vacating record of felony conviction. Bring a proposed order vacating the records of your felony conviction for the judge’s signature. That way, if the motion is granted, the judge will sign the order. After that, the clerk of the court will send a copy of the order to the Washington State Patrol and to the local law enforcement agency, if any, that holds criminal history information about you.
As you can see, there are a lot of steps required to complete the process to vacate criminal records in Washington State. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can walk you through the process to ensure a smooth and successful outcome.
Mount Vernon Criminal Defense Lawyer Since 2010
We understand that being charged with a crime is a stressful and upsetting situation. Having an aggressive advocate in your corner who can offer legal guidance and craft a strategic, practical approach to your case is so important. The experienced Mount Vernon criminal defense lawyer at Fields Law Office provides legal representation to criminal defense clients in Skagit, Island, and Whatcom Counties.
Sharon Fields is a highly skilled, results-driven criminal defense attorney with a tremendous drive to achieve justice, guided by her commitment and passion for your rights. Learn more about Fields Law.