Your criminal record may be expunged—that is, erased or sealed—under the circumstances described below. In Washington, the process of expunging or sealing a criminal conviction is called "vacating a judgment."
If your nonconviction record is expunged, or if a court vacates your conviction, the information will no longer be visible to the general public, including potential employers. In most cases, you may say that you were never arrested or convicted of a crime.
If you were arrested, cited for a violation, or a warrant was issued for your arrest, but charges were never filed, your criminal history record may qualify for expungement. Before applying, you must wait at least three years from the date of the arrest, citation, or warrant.
If you were arrested and charged with a crime, but not convicted, your criminal history record may qualify for expungement. Before applying, you must wait two years from the date that the charges against were resolved in your favor.
Exceptions. Your record may not qualify for expungement if:
(Washington Statutes § 10.97.060 (2018).)
Misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction. Your misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction may be vacated if:
In addition, the misdemeanor offense must not be:
(Washington Statutes § 9.96.060 (2018).)
Felony conviction. In limited circumstances, you may ask a court to vacate your felony conviction after you have successfully completed the terms of your sentence. Your conviction will not be vacated if:
(Washington Statutes § 9.94A.640 (2018).)
Certain prostitution convictions. You may ask a court of vacate your record at any time if you were convicted of a prostitution offense as a result of being a victim of:
Your conviction will not be vacated if:
(Washington Statutes § 9.96.060(3) (2018).)
Suspended sentence. If you completed a suspended sentence, you may be able to petition to have your conviction dismissed. (Washington Statutes § 9.92.066 (2018).)
For more information about criminal record expungement in Washington, including filing guidelines, see the Washington State Courts website.
Cleaning up a criminal history can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in Washington—or for advice about your personal situation—you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.
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