Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in Washington

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."

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 Not 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:

  • the prosecution of your case was deferred or otherwise diverted
  • you have a prior conviction for a felony or gross misdemeanor, or
  • you were arrested for or charged with another crime during your waiting period.

(Washington Statutes § 10.97.060 (2018).)

If You Were Convicted of a Crime

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

  • more than three years have passed since you completed all the terms of your sentence
  • no criminal charges are pending against you and you have not been convicted of a new crime
  • you have never had another conviction vacated, and
  • in the past five years, you have not 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.

(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:

  • criminal charges are pending against you
  • you have 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), or the offense is another Class C felony and less than five years have passed.

(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:

  • 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 does not apply if you can prove that your subsequent conviction was also a result of having been the victim of one of the crimes specified above).

(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).)

How to File

For more information about criminal record expungement in Washington, including filing guidelines, see the Washington State Courts website.

Getting Legal Help

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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