Under Washington Law, certain misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions can be vacated or “expunged”. To have a conviction vacated or expunged means that the person convicted is released from all penalties and disabilities that resulted from the conviction. Once the record of conviction is vacated, the fact of the conviction is no longer included in the person’s criminal history. If asked, for example on housing or employment applications, the person may lawfully answer that he was not convicted of that crime. In the criminal traffic arena, certain convictions can be vacated while others can not. Unfortunately, at the present time, convictions for DUI (RCW 46.61.502) and Physical Control (46.61.504) can not be vacated. Reductions from the following charges, however, can be:
- Reckless Driving
- Reckless Endangerment
- Negligent Driving First Degree
- Hit and Run
- Driving on a Suspended License
It is important to note that while convictions for the above offenses can be vacated, this is a discretionary decision made by the court and not a matter of right. Some judges will and do balk at the idea. This is especially true when the conviction is for a charge that was reduced from an original charge of DUI. The thought process of these judges is that a reduction from a DUI counts as a prior DUI in case of a subsequent DUI conviction. An expungement of the initial conviction would nullify it’s use as a prior for future sentencing purposes. This fact alone is a reason anyone who qualifies for an expungement of such a conviction should make a motion to do so. To qualify for an expungement, in addition to having a qualified charge eligible for expungement one must:
- Have no new criminal charges pending at the time the motion is made
- Have no new convictions for any crime in any court
- Never had a record of another conviction vacated
- Not be currently restrained or restrained within the five years prior to the application of record vacation by an domestic violence protection order, no contact order, anti harassment order or civil restraining order
- Three years must have elapsed since compliance with all conditions of the sentencing court
Below are links to the applicable Washington statute as well as court forms necessary to request vacation of a record of conviction. While an attorney is not necessary to make such a request, because it is a discretionary ruling and because of the reluctance of many courts to grant such motions in cases involving criminal traffic convictions, the assistance of a experienced Washington Expungement Lawyer is highly recommended. Feel free to contact our office for more information or for assistance vacating your record of conviction.
Additionally, anyone who is currently charged with a DUI who anticipates that the charge will be reduced should also be aware of what is known as a “deferred sentence”. A deferred sentence is a sentencing alternative whereby the court “defers” sentencing for a period of time. If the defendant complies with certain conditions during that period of time, the case is dismissed. This is a much better alternative to a record expungement because it occurs much more rapidly and, if granted, is automatic. Do not confuse a “deferred sentence” with a “deferred prosecution”. The latter is an agreement to dismiss the case in exchange for completing a long term alcohol, drug and/or mental health treatment program. For a full treatment of Deferred Sentence follow this link. For a discussion on the Deferred Prosecution alternative, click here.