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What are the requirements for vacating a misdemeanor conviction in Washington?

In Washington, you must meet the following five (5) requirements to be able to vacate your misdemeanor conviction:  (These requirements can be found in RCW 9.96.060)

1. You completed the terms of your misdemeanor 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. There are no pending criminal charges against you

You cannot have any pending charges against you in any jurisdiction.  This obviously means in Washington, but it also includes any other state, federal, or tribal court.

Traffic infractions and civil lawsuits don't count.  Only a criminal charge will prevent you from filing a motion to vacate.  

3. There are no pending restraining orders against you

Restraining orders include not just domestic violence protection orders, but also anti-harassment orders, stalking orders, sexual assault protection orders, or any other type of civil restraining order.   

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

Additionally, you cannot have violated any restraining order in the past 5 years before filing your motion to vacate.  This includes current or past restraining orders.  

5. 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 your misdemeanor conviction.

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

Example:   pleaded guilty to theft in the third degree (gross misdemeanor) and you were sentenced on January 1, 2015.  You were placed on probation for 2 years (until January 1, 2017) but you did not complete all your required probation conditions until July 1, 2017.  You file a motion to vacate on January 1, 2020.  The Court will deny your motion because 3 years has not passed since you completed your sentence.  You must wait until July 1, 2020 to file your motion.  

Are deferred sentences considered criminal convictions?

Yes.  Under RCW 10.97.030, the Washington Criminal Records Privacy Act defines a "conviction" to include a criminal conviction or an adverse disposition to include "a dismissal entered after a period of probation, suspension, or deferral of sentence."

Can I vacate more than one misdemeanor in my lifetime?

Yes.  This is a recent development.

Before July 2019, you could only vacate one misdemeanor conviction during your lifetime.  But under the New Hope Act, you can vacate as many misdemeanors as you are eligible, subject to court approval. 

Can I vacate a domestic violence conviction?

Yes, but only if you meet additional requirements under RCW 9.96.060.  

Can I vacate a DUI conviction?

No.  But you may be successful if you pleaded guilty to a reduced charge.  

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