Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Washington

In Washington, the process of expunging or sealing a criminal conviction is called "vacating a judgment."

By , MSLIS · Long Island University
Updated June 02, 2023

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."

What Is Expungement?

In general, an expunged criminal record or vacated judgment is essentially erased or sealed. If your non-conviction 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 can legally say you were never arrested or convicted of a crime.

Who Is Eligible for Expungement in Washington?

Generally, people charged with a crime but not convicted can have the record of the arrest and charges expunged. And people convicted of certain types of offenses might be able to get their convictions vacated.

Expungement in Washington If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime

Your criminal history record might qualify for expungement if you were arrested, cited for a violation, or had an arrest warrant, but charges were never filed. In those circumstances, you must wait at least three years from the date of the arrest, citation, or warrant to apply for expungement.

If you were charged with a crime, but not convicted, you can apply for expungement two years from the date that the charges were resolved in your favor.

Exceptions. Your record might not qualify for expungement if:

Vacating a Judgment in Washington If You Were Convicted of a Crime

Many convictions are eligible to be vacated in Washington, assuming the person hasn't previously had a judgment vacated. There's a waiting period, and certain criteria must be met before the court will vacate the judgment.

Misdemeanor conviction. Your misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction may be vacated if:

  • more than three years have passed since you completed your sentence
  • no criminal charges are pending against you and you haven't been convicted of a new crime
  • you've never had another conviction vacated, and
  • in the past five years, you haven't been the subject of a domestic violence protection order, a no-contact order, an antiharassment order, or a civil restraining order.

In addition, the misdemeanor offense must not be:

  • a violent offense or an attempt to commit a violent offense
  • a vehicular offense related to driving under the influence
  • a sex offense, or
  • a disqualifying domestic violence offense.

Felony conviction. In limited circumstances, you can ask a court to vacate your felony conviction after you've successfully completed your sentence.

Your conviction will not be vacated if:

  • criminal charges are pending against you
  • you've been convicted of a new crime since completing your sentence
  • your conviction was for a violent offense or a crime against persons
  • the offense is a Class B felony and less than ten years have passed since you completed your sentence, or
  • the offense is a Class C felony under Washington Statutes §§ 46.61.502(b) or 46.61.504(6) (certain repeat-DUI offenses), or,
  • the offense is any other Class C felony and less than five years have passed.

Certain prostitution convictions. You may ask a court to vacate your record at any time if you were convicted of a prostitution offense as a result of being a victim of:

  • human trafficking
  • promoting prostitution in the first degree
  • promoting commercial sexual abuse of a minor, or
  • trafficking in persons under federal law.

Your conviction will not be vacated if:

  • criminal charges pending against you, or
  • you have any subsequent convictions, other than prostitution (although this limitation doesn't apply if you can prove your subsequent conviction was also a result of being the victim of one of the crimes specified above).

Suspended sentence. If you've completed a suspended sentence, you can petition to have your conviction vacated in Washington.

How to File for Expungement or Vacating a Judgment in Washington.

For more information about criminal record expungement in Washington, including filing guidelines, see the guide provided by the Washington State Courts website. All of the forms needed for record sealing can be found there as well.

Getting Legal Help

Cleaning up a criminal history can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. If you're 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.

(Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9.94A.640, 9.96.060(3), 9.92.066, 10.97.060 (2023).)

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