What is Expungement?
Washington offers expungement. Courts also refer to expungement as "vacation" or "set aside." Expungement deletes or destroys your criminal record and restores you to the status you had before the offense.
Washington has two types of expungement:
- Administrative expungement of nonconvictions
- Court expungement (vacation) of some convictions.
Washington law allows courts to seal or destroy juvenile records. These records can be seen only by a court order. The state also offers an automatic administrative procedure that destroys records once a juvenile becomes 18.
Who is Eligible for Expungement?
You may be eligible for administrative expungement of nonconvictions if:
- Your charges were dropped or dismissed;
- You were found not guilty; or
- You received a "favorable" disposition.
You are not eligible for administrative expungement if:
- Your disposition was a deferred prosecution or similar diversion;
- You have a prior conviction for a felony or gross misdemeanor; or
- You were arrested or charged with another crime during the two to three year waiting period.
Washington law allows courts to expunge or "vacate" convictions for misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors. You may be eligible for court expungement also known as "vacation" of some convictions, if:
- You were convicted of prostitution, promoting prostitution, promoting sexual abuse of a minor, or trafficking in people and you were a victim of trafficking;
- You were convicted before January 1, 1975 of violating any law about fishing and you are a member of a tribe that has treaty fishing rights where the violation occurred;
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense when you were 21 or older; or
- You were convicted of a certain felony (under RCW 9.94A.640).
And all of the following must be true:
- You have completed all the terms of your sentence, including all financial obligations;
- You do not have any charges pending against you;
- You have not been convicted of a new crime in any state or a federal court;
- You are not restrained by a domestic-violence protection order, a no-contact order, an anti-harassment order, or a civil restraining order;
- You have not violated a restraining order in the past five years; and
- You have waited at least three years from the completion of your sentence to apply for expungement.
You are not eligible to expunge a conviction if the offense involved:
- Violence or attempted violence;
- Obscenity or pornography;
- Sex or sexual exploitation of children;
- Domestic violence; or
- Driving or operating under the influence.
If you are uncertain whether you are eligible for administrative expungement of nonconvictions or court expungement (vacation) of some convictions, consult with an attorney.
What Effect Does Expungement Have?
Once the Washington State Patrol (WSP) grants an administrative expungement, the record is deleted.
When a Washington court vacates a conviction, the vacation is noted next to the record. The record is not deleted and remains available.
You can legally deny the arrest or conviction with either type of expungement,
When Can I Apply for Expungement?
Here is when you can apply for administrative expungement of a nonconviction:
- If the disposition was “favorable" to you, you must wait two years after that disposition was recorded;
- If you were not convicted, you must wait three years after you were arrested or a citation or warrant was issued.
Here is when you can apply for court expungement (vacation) of some convictions:
- If you have a misdemeanor, you must wait three years after you have completed all the terms of your sentence including financial obligations.
How Do I Apply for Expungement?
Here are the five steps to apply for the Washington State Patrol (WSP) administrative expungement of nonconvictions:
- Get the "Request for Expungement/Deletion of Non-Conviction Records" form. To access the form, visit the WSP website here: Request for Expungement/Deletion of Non-Conviction Records.
- Complete the form. You must sign the form and have another person sign and date the form as a witness.
- Get your fingerprints taken at your local law enforcement agency or at the WSP office in Olympia.
- Pay the fingerprinting fee. The fee can vary from $5.00 to $15.00.
- Mail the form and all documents to this address:
Washington State Patrol
Identification and Background Check Section
P.O. Box 42633
Olympia, WA 98504-2633
Or deliver it in person to this address:
106 11th Avenue
SW, Olympia, WA 98501
There is no fee to apply for an expungement of a nonconviction. An administrative expungement may require you to go to court to ask them to change their records to show the expungement. For the "Expungement Checklist", visit the WSP website here: Expungement Checklist.
Here are the three steps to apply for a court expungement (vacation) of some convictions:
- Complete the correct form to vacate a misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, or certain felonies from the courts online. To access the forms, visit the WSP website here: Court Forms. You can also call the Administrative Office of the Courts at (360) 705-5328 to get the form.
- Submit the form to the clerk in the county where you were charged.
- Make copies of everything.
The court may hold a hearing on your petition to vacate. If it does not, the court will notify you when the judge has made a decision.
More Information About Expungement