In the summer of 2019, Washington State rather quietly introduced new legislation called the New Hope Act, which made significant changes to how individuals vacate, or remove, criminal convictions from their records. Many (most) people who call our office use the term “expunge” when they are asking about removing something from their record, but what they are actually seeking to do is “vacate” a conviction. But, whatever you want to call it, we know what you’re looking to do: clear your record for employment, personal, or child custody reasons. At Russell & Hill, PLLC, our Everett criminal defense lawyers essentially handle the entire process of vacating your conviction with minimal involvement on your end. We are able to prepare your motion to vacate and go to court for you without you having to show up. To officially get your conviction vacated, we get an order signed by the court which originally heard your case. We make sure that this order is sent to the proper authorities to scrub the conviction from your record. Once a conviction is vacated, it will no longer show up on a background check and also you can legally answer any question on application with “no” if it asks you if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. What vacating a conviction is and the benefits of it to you have not changed with the of the enacting of the New Hope Act. However, what can be removed from your record has been drastically expanded to your benefit.
Before the New Hope Act, an individual in Washington State was eligible to vacate one misdemeanor conviction in their life, and it had to be the most recent conviction. A situation that I would often see is where someone would be trying to vacate an old Theft or Assault conviction, but when I went to look at their record, after the conviction they were concerned with, they then pleaded guilty to something minimal (let’s say a DWLS 3rd degree – Driving with License Suspended). That meant that they could no longer go back to clear that Assault or Theft, and they probably didn’t think about those implications when they pleaded guilty to that DWLS 3rd. This has changed! There are no longer limits on the number of misdemeanor cases that you can vacate. This means that as long as you’re eligible on each case, meaning the necessary amount of time has passed, you’ve stayed out of trouble, and you’ve completed the conditions of your sentence, you can go back and remove many criminal convictions. One caveat to this are “DV” or domestic violence cases. You cannot vacate a DV misdemeanor if you have more than one DV convictions from separate incidents. However, if you’re looking to remove one DV conviction, you can remove that so long as you meet the other requirements.
Beyond these big changes to vacating misdemeanor convictions, there are a couple of other minor changes and an important point to be made on an underused area of misdemeanor vacate law. First, under the New Hope Act, a misdemeanor “Failure to Register as a Sex Offender” conviction can now be vacated. Second, a person having been restrained by a civil No Contact Order in the last 5 years is no longer a disqualifier in vacating a criminal offense. This is true so long as the no contact order is not currently in effect and you have not violated the order in the last 5 years. Third, I wanted to bring up an important note, which isn’t a change, but something many people do not realize. While the New Hope Act still does not allow for an individual to vacate a DUI or Physical Control charge, Washingtonians can move the court to vacate DUI charges that were reduced to Reckless Driving and Negligent driving (the two most common reductions from DUI). There is a longer waiting period for this, and you must have satisfied the conditions of your case and have not been in any recent trouble, but it is a possibility. I don’t get nearly enough calls about vacating these types of cases. I handle so many DUI cases that get reduced, so I know that these cases are out there and eligible for removal from people’s records, which leads me to believe that many people just assume that this just isn’t possible. It is, and feel free to call me to discuss whether you are eligible. If you’re not, I’ll be sure to tell you when to call me back to get it done.
When it comes to determining which misdemeanors you are eligible to vacate form your record, please call Russell & Hill, PLLC for further analysis. We will help analyze your situation before you hire us. Once you hire us, we will handle things from front to back, taking your stress of the courtroom out of the equation.