A criminal conviction can be a difficult barrier to moving on in life. Even after you have served your time and completed the requirements of your sentence you may feel the impact of the past conviction. There are a number of ways to approach removing a criminal conviction from your background.
Certificate of Discharge
A Certificate of Discharge is a document confirming a defendant has completed all of his or her sentence requirements. It also restores your right to vote or serve on a jury. It can come from the Department of Corrections or the Court. If you were not assigned a DOC officer you will need to request this document from the Court. In order to be granted a Certificate of Discharge you will need to prove that you completed all the terms of the sentence including probation, treatment, jail time, community service, legal financial obligations, or other obligations. If you a no-contact order was part of your sentence a separate no-contact order may be issued at the time the Certificate of Discharge is granted. A Certificate of Discharge is an important piece to move forward with other post-conviction relief.
Vacating a Conviction
Individual convicted of most crimes may request that their conviction be vacated. The waiting periods to request that a conviction be vacated vary depending on the type of crime but are between 3 and 10 years. A vacated conviction will release the defendant from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense. If your conviction is successfully vacated you may lawfully state you have never been convicted of the offense. Once the conviction is vacated the record of conviction may only be transmitted throughout law enforcement agencies and will not be available to the public.
Criminal history records on file with law enforcement may be deleted in certain circumstances. This request is typically begun with the Washington State Patrol. Once the record is deleted it will not be available to the general public. Expungement is an important process if you have been arrested but not charged with a crime. Even arrest records can be a barrier to housing, employment or other opportunities. To determine if you are eligible to expunge your record call for a consultation.
Sealing is a process that effectively closes your court file from public view and prevents access to the file. Because Washington State has a strong open records policy it can be very difficult to seal a criminal record. Sealing can be a long and difficult process that requires demonstrating to a Judge that a compelling safety or privacy concern outweighs the public’s interest in access to the court record.
Special rules apply to the treatment of juvenile records. For more information on post-conviction relief of juvenile records refer to the Juvenile Sealing page.