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How do I file a motion to vacate my felony conviction in Washington?

After you obtain your certificate of discharge, you have to file a written motion with the court in which you were sentenced and notify the prosecutor's office of your motion.

For example: If you were convicted in Snohomish County Superior Court, you have to file your motion in that court and notify the Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office.  

But before you actually file your motion to vacate your felony conviction, you will need to obtain a certificate of discharge.

What is a certificate of discharge? 

A certificate of discharge is a Court document officially confirming that you have successfully completed all the conditions of your felony sentence in Washington.

That is, you have served your prison sentence, completed probation, and paid any fines, fees, costs, and restitution.  In other words, your case is over, and you are “discharged” from the Court's jurisdiction.

A certificate of discharge also restores your civil rights that you lost as a result of your felony conviction.  You regain the right to vote, the right to serve on a jury, and the right to run for public office.

A certificate of discharge does not, however, restore your right to possess firearms.  There is a separate process in Washington for restoring your firearm rights.  

You must have a copy of your certificate of discharge before you can apply to vacate your felony conviction in Washington.  

Will the court send me a copy of my certificate of discharge when I finish my sentence?

Legally, yes.  But practically, probably not. 

Once you complete your sentence, the Department of Corrections (DOC) is required to notify the Court.  The court is then required to issue your certificate of discharge in the mail, but this regularly doesn't happen. 

In practice, you will want to file a motion with the court for a copy of your certificate of discharge, and upon verification, the court will send you a copy. 

Will the prosecutor object to my motion to vacate?

It depends on several factors.  In some courts, prosecutors carefully review these motions and appear at the court hearings.  In other jurisdiction, the State defers to the court.  This essentially means the prosecutor doesn't agree but (more importantly for you) doesn't object. 

You should always reach out to the prosecutor to try to get the State to agree to your motion.  The judge may grant your motion anyway (assuming you are eligible, of course), but judges are more likely to grant your motion if the prosecutor agrees. 

Will I have to go to court or can I just file a written motion?  

That depends on the jurisdiction.  In some courts, you will have to appear.  In others, the judge may simply review your written motion and issue a decision by mail or email. 

If you have an attorney, you will very rarely have to appear.  Typically, in most courts, your attorney will appear in court and present your motion to the judge. 

If I qualify for vacation, will the judge grant my motion?

Again, it depends.  Under RCW 9.94A.640, the judge does not have to grant your request even if you meet all the requirements under the statute.  A judge, for example, may deny your motion based on the facts of the particular case, your record, or based on the prosecutor's objection. 

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