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Can I vacate a domestic violence conviction in Washington?

You can vacate a domestic violence (DV) misdemeanor conviction in Washington, but it is harder than vacating other misdemeanor convictions.  

Under RCW 9.96.060, you must meet the following eight (8) requirements before you can vacate your DV conviction:

1. You completed the terms of your sentence

This means, obviously, that you served any required jail time and successfully completed probation.  But you also must have paid your fines and other court costs.

(Note that you do not have to pay off your fines to vacate a felony conviction. Ironically, this can make vacating a misdemeanor conviction even harder than vacating a felony conviction). 

2. Five years have passed since you completed your sentence

You cannot file a motion to vacate until 5 years have passed since you completed all the terms of your sentence, including payment of all legal financial obligations.

Example: In 2014, you were convicted of a DV crime in Skagit County Superior Court.  You finished all your probation conditions in 2016 except for your court fines, which you did not pay until 2019.  

You are not eligible until 2024 (i.e. 5 years from when you completed your sentence).

3. You do not have DV convictions from 2 separate incidents

Under RCW 9.96.060, you cannot vacate a prior DV conviction if you have two or more convictions for domestic violence that arise out of different incidents.

The prohibition does not apply, however, if you are applying to vacate multiple DV convictions if the convictions arose out of the same incident.

Example #1You were convicted of assaulting your ex-wife in King County Superior Court.  Two years later, you pleaded guilty to assaulting your brother in Yakima County District Court.

You cannot vacate either conviction.  You have two DV convictions for two different incidents.: 

Example #2: You get into an argument at home in Olympia and you are charged with assaulting your husband and your brother.  You later plead guilty to two counts of DV assault in Olympia Municipal Court.  Ten years later, you file a motion to vacate both convictions.

You are eligible to vacate, assuming you meet the other statutory requirements.  Both DV convictions arose out of the same incident so the prohibition does not apply.  

4. There are no pending criminal charges against you

You cannot vacate your conviction if you are currently charged with a crime in any state or federal or tribal court.

Only criminal charges matter.  Traffic infractions, civil lawsuits, or administrative proceedings, for example, do not count.

Example:  You file a motion to vacate a DV conviction in Spokane County District Court.  After you file your motion, you get sued by your tenant in superior court.  You are still eligible to vacate.

5. You are not subject to any restraining orders

A court-ordered restraining order legally prohibits you from having contact with another person or from going to a certain place.

  • Restraining orders include:
  • Domestic violence protection orders
  • Anti-harassment orders
  • Stalking protection orders  

6. You have not violated a restraining order in the past 5 years

Even if you are not subject to an active restraining order, you are not eligible to vacate a past conviction if you recently violated a restraining order. 

Under RCW 9.96.060(f), you cannot vacate a DV conviction if you were previously subject to a restraining order and you were "found to have committed" one or more violations in the 5 years before you filed your motion.

Example #1:  In 2017, you were subject to a temporary domestic violence protection order in Yakima County District Court.  A judge found that you violated the order.  The order expired later that year.  In January 2021, you file a motion to vacate a prior DV conviction.

You are not eligible.  You have to wait until 2022 (i.e. five years from you violated the temporary protection order).

Example #2: In 2019, Snohomish County Superior Court imposed a civil stalking order against you.  In 2020, the State charged you with violating the order but a jury later finds you not guilty after trial.  The stalking order expires in December 2020.  In January 2021, you file a motion to vacate a prior DV conviction.

You are eligible.  Although you were subject to a restraining order, a jury did not find that you violated the order.  

7. You have not committed any crimes for at least 3 years before filing your motion to vacate

In Washington, you must have spent at least three (3) crime-free years in the community without having any criminal convictions before you are eligible to vacate a DV conviction.  

The mandatory 3-year waiting period clock does not begin until you have completed your sentence. 

Example:  You pleaded guilty to violating a DV no contact order in Chelan County District Court in 2019.  You are not eligible to vacate your conviction until at least 2022.  

8. You have not committed a violent offense or a sex crime

You cannot vacate a past DV conviction if you have any violent or sex crimes on your record.  These types of crime make you permanently ineligible.  

 

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