Expungement –An Easy to Understand Overview of the Process in Washington State

Mar 16 08:44 2009 Douglas Stratemeyer Print This Article

Expungement of a criminal record isn’t as confusing or complicated as it sometimes seems.  Learn about the process for clearing your criminal record in this article.

If you have a criminal conviction or arrest record in Washington State,Guest Posting then you might already be familiar with the many ways the record can inconveniently affect you.  From employment –not getting the promotion or job you want, to not qualifying for a loan, not being able to rent an apartment, and a variety of other embarrassing situations.  An expungement of the criminal record might be the right answer for you to clear your name.

Expungement of criminal records is not easily understood. If you have searched on the Internet for any amount of time, you already know there is quite a bit of misinformation about expungements.  While the term “expungement” is widely used to describe clearing your criminal record, “expungement” does have a specific legal meaning.  Even so, on my website I do refer to the expungement process generically because it is the term most people are familiar with.

In Washington State, expungement of an actual criminal conviction is called Vacating the Criminal Conviction.  However, Expungement actually refers to destroying a criminal record that contains only “non-conviction data”.  Non-conviction data refers to a criminal record where you were not convicted.  This could be an arrest where no charges were filed, or a situation where charges were filed but dismissed outright.  Non-conviction data does not include a dismissal of charges if the dismissal followed a deferred sentence.

Many people I’ve helped expunge a criminal record are confused about this point -and understandably so.  In Washington State, courts sometimes defer a sentence after a person pleads guilty to a misdemeanor.  In this situation, the person pleading guilty must complete certain conditions, and when the conditions are successfully completed the court dismisses the conviction.  But here is where the confusion arises.  The charge is dismissed, but the conviction continues to show on the person’s record.  So, in other words, the charge is dismissed but doesn’t go away.

With an actual criminal conviction, expungement is technically not available.  Instead, in Washington State the criminal conviction must be vacated.

Expungement of non-conviction data is a relatively simple process.  A request in the proper form is made to the law enforcement agency that made the arrest, and to the Washington State Patrol which keeps the official record.  When the expungement is complete, the record is destroyed and no longer shows in the database.  The expungement request can be declined by the law enforcement agency if you have a subsequent arrest or criminal charge.

A criminal conviction is removed from the record when a court enters an Order Vacating the conviction.  The result is very similar to an expungement.  The conviction no longer shows in the database, however the court file continues to exist.  There is no law in Washington State that permits destruction, or expungement, of a court file.  Even sealing the file does not expunge the file.  Sealing removes the file from public inspection, but the file still exists in the court.

While the expungement process sometimes appears confusing, it really is not.  As you can see in this article, Expungement refers to deleting non-conviction data such as an arrest record.  A criminal conviction must be vacated by a court.  After it is vacated, Washington State law permits a person to state he or she has never been convicted of a crime.  With either expungement or vacating, after the process is complete a person can put away an unhappy and sometimes embarrassing chapter of his or her life.

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About Article Author

Douglas Stratemeyer
Douglas Stratemeyer

Douglas Stratemeyer is an expert on expungement law in Washington State. Doug has been a lawyer since 1992, and is a former part-time judge, who helps people expunge Washington State criminal convictions, clear criminal records, expunge juvenile criminal records, and restore firearm possession rights.  Read more about him and how to clear your criminal record at his website http://www.StratemeyerLaw.com, or http://www.WashingtonStateExpungement.com.

Copyright ©2009 Douglas Stratemeyer.  All Rights reserved.

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