If you were convicted of a crime, misdemeanor or felony, in Kittitas County, you may be at the point where you want to remove or delete that conviction from your record. Most people call me to ask for an expungement. Washington law is a bit complicated in its terminology for this area.
It is really important that you consult a lawyer for your specific situation. These laws change often and this article may not be accurate for your situation. Give my office a call for assistance, as I frequently help clients with this area of the law.
Do you need to expunge or vacate your old conviction?
If you were convicted of a charge by guilty plea or trial verdict, you are looking to vacate your conviction. It is the same idea as what most people commonly call an expungement - the conviction is removed from your record and you don't need to say you've been convicted on things like job applications or housing applications.
If you were charged with something but the case did not result in a guilty conviction, then you are trying to expunge your record. This means you are asking the Washington State Patrol to delete your non-conviction record from their system. Refer to the end of this article for more on expungement, as you probably don't need a lawyer for that request. If you are trying to vacate a conviction, though, call me.
How do I vacate my old Kittitas County felony or misdemeanor conviction?
If you were charged with a felony or charged with a misdemeanor in Ellensburg, you may be eligible to remove that conviction from your record - but you need to wait until after a period of time passes. Washington law is not easy in this regard, as various requirements exist, so it is important to hire a lawyer to help you with this. 2019 laws expanded the vacate rules too, which means most felonies are now eligible.
First, you need to figure out what your waiting period is. For class B felonies, you must wait 10 years from the applicable waiting period date. For class C felonies, you must wait 5 years from the waiting period date. You also cannot have any new convictions in this timeframe. The later date of the following needs to pass before you're eligible:
For misdemeanors, you can seek to vacate your misdemeanor conviction even if you have another conviction. You just need to wait 3 years for most misdemeanors or 5 years for a domestic violence offense. The big caveat for misdemeanors is you also MUST have your fines/fees paid off with the court. Your timeframe here cannot start until after your final payment, which frequently hangs clients up with misdemeanor vacate requests.
If you are 21 years old or older, a conviction for possession of marijuana can be vacated at any time - in other words, you do not need to wait the 3 year period. For a case that started as a DUI, even if you did not ultimately have a conviction for DUI, you must wait even longer depending on the type of case. These are complicated, so consulting a lawyer is a good idea.
How does the process work to vacate a conviction?
You need to file a motion with the court and the prosecutor. You also need to provide various documentation with your motion. Sometimes, you need to get a certificate of discharge signed by the judge for a felony conviction. This isn't easy to do without a lawyer, so I recommend hiring someone. As I mentioned above, I frequently do these types of cases for clients. Feel free to give me a call for assistance.
After the motion is filed, the prosecutor's office will review the case. They'll run your out-of-state criminal history to make sure you qualify. If they think you qualify, they will sign off on the final order. I can typically present agreed orders to our judges without a hearing, which moves the case along faster.
If a hearing is required, it is noted up with the court clerk. This hearing is where your attorney will explain to the judge why you qualify, why the prosecutor may be wrong in thinking you do not qualify, or to address whatever other issue may be present.
Once the judge signs the order to vacate, the following text appears at the end of the judge's order. This frequently is very emotional for a lot of my clients, as it is quite a big deal:
"For all purposes, including responding to questions on employment applications, the defendant may state that he or she has never been convicted of any offense listed in paragraph 3.1."
It should be noted that an order to vacate does not restore your rights to possess a firearm. This is a totally separate, and similarly complicated, process. I will frequently do both of these at the same time, but your firearm rights are not restored because your conviction is vacated.
Expungement: deleting non-conviction data
If your case was dismissed, dropped, or you were found not guilty, expungement is the route you want to take. The charge could have been dismissed outright or after a stay of proceedings/stay of continuance. You cannot have previous gross misdemeanor or felony convictions on your record, however. You also cannot have any arrests, charges, or convictions between the period of time you are requesting expungement. You cannot apply until 2 years after the court's dismissal or final disposition.
You likely do not need a lawyer for an expungement, as you simply need to fill out this form:
Tony Swartz is an experienced lawyer in Washington State. He has handled, start to finish, over 10,000 criminal cases. He has also dealt with various types of civil cases, including administrative law hearings, Superior Court cases, District Court cases, and more. He also has advised clients in transactional matters spanning topics such as business law, nonprofit law, and property law.