Criminal charges are just the first step in the lengthy and grueling legal process. Sometimes you may not make it to trial, and you get offered a plea bargain. At times your lawyer will be able to get the charges dismissed. You may even make it to trial and get acquitted. But simply making it out of the courtroom and back home doesn't mean that your name is cleared. Courts are public offices that hold records for long periods of time. You may find undesirable and bothersome records of your arrest, charges, or court dates coming up in background checks when applying for jobs, housing, or licenses, even if they charges were dismissed or the jury reached not guilty verdict. So what can you do to prevent these old charges from inhibiting your ability to live your life?
Juvenile Court Records
Crimes committed as a minor can still follow you around even long after your eighteenth birthday. You best option, if convicted or charged with a crime as a minor, is to get those records sealed. The courts will automatically set up a sealing hearing date scheduled for a date after the latest of the following events:
- Your eighteenth birthday
- Completion of probation, if ordered
- Release from confinement or parole, if ordered
The court will notify you, your attorney and any victim involved in the case of the hearing for the opportunity to object, if there is no objection, after the hearing, the court will seal the records unless:
- The crime was a serious offense
- The crime was a sex offense
- The crime was a drug offense
- You have not completed terms of disposition and restitution in compliance to your case
If your case does not allow for you to follow that process you must file for a motion to have those records sealed. The court will, in most cases, grant your motion unless:
- You are required to register as a sex offender
- You convicted of rape in the first or second degree
- You have criminal or diversion agreement proceedings pending
- You have not paid restitution to the victim
- It has been less than two years without incident since your release, hearing, or diversion agreement completion
The court shall immediately seal official juvenile court records if you are acquitted after fact finding, or upon the dismissal of charges. Once the record sealing takes place, you are free to treat the case as if it had never happened. It is important to remember, however, that state police will still have records pertaining to the case. Record sealing agreements are voided upon adult felony charges, or subsequent juvenile offenses.
Adult Court Records
The process of expungement in Washington state is known as vacating. Vacating is the only option for clearing your name in the event of a conviction. You will be able to have an adult criminal misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction vacated if:
- You have completed the terms of your sentence, including financial obligations
- Three years have passed since the completion of those terms
- You have no criminal charges pending or you have not been convicted of another crime
- You do not have a different conviction vacated
- You have not been restrained by a domestic violence protection order, a no-contact order, or other court order
If you meet these requirements, you should be able to have the conviction vacated; however, a conviction may NOT be vacated if:
- The offense was a violent offense, or attempted violent offense
- The offense was a DUI or DUI-related offense
- The offense was an offense of sexual nature
- Certain instances of domestic violence may not be vacated
Vacating a felony conviction is a bit different. You may make a motion to vacate the conviction, but this will be done at the court's discretion. Certain factors may exclude you from vacating the conviction:
- You are facing criminal charges in any other court
- The conviction was for a violent offense
- You have been convicted of a crime in any other court
- The offense was a class B felony and less than ten years have passed since discharge
- The offense is a class C felony and less than five years have passed since discharge
Once a record has been vacated, you may state that you have not been convicted of the crime, however, the records themselves will not be sealed and are still available to the public. On top of this, convictions can still be used in the event of another criminal prosecution.
It should be noted that prostitution and prostitution related convictions have their own more specific set of standards to vacate the conviction.
In the event of an arrest or a warrant for your arrest without any charges being filed against you, you may qualify to apply for the deletion of your criminal records within the police systems and records. There is a waiting period of three years after the arrest or warrant before you may apply.
In the event of a non-conviction, or charges being dropped, you may prepare an application for the deletion of your criminal records. There is a similar waiting period of only two years from the date that the charges were dropped.
Certain factors affect whether or not your records can be deleted. These factors include:
- The prosecutor deferring or diverting your case
- You have a prior conviction of either a felony or a gross misdemeanor
- You have been arrested during the waiting period
- You have been charged with another crime during your waiting period
The process of clearing your name and filing motions of vacating old record can be an arduous process with many legal pitfalls along the way. The easiest way to avoid having to settle for vacating records is to not have a conviction. If you have been charged with a crime, or have been convicted and you need legal assistance contact Steve Karimi today.