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

In Washington, you must meet the following six (6) requirements to be able to vacate your misdemeanor conviction:  (These requirements can be found in RCW 9.96.060).

(There are additional requirements for vacating a domestic violence misdemeanor conviction).  

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 means Washington, any other state, or any other state or federal court. 

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

3. There are no pending restraining orders against you

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

Typical restraining orders include:

  • Domestic violence protection orders
  • Anti-harassment orders
  • Stalking protection orders   

4. 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:  You pleaded guilty to theft in the third degree in Whatcom County District Court on January 1, 2017.  Although you were put on probation for 2 years, you did not complete all of your probation conditions until July 1, 2019.  You file a motion to vacate your conviction in December 2020.

The Court will deny your motion because less than 3 years have passed since you completed your sentence.  You must wait until July 1, 2022 before you are eligible.  

5. You did not commit a sex offense or violent offense

Under Washington law, you cannot vacate certain types of crimes, regardless of how much time has passed.  These include obscenity, pornography, and sexual exploitation of children.  

6.  You did not commit a DUI

You cannot vacate a misdemeanor or felony conviction for DUI under any circumstances.

But you may be successful if you pleaded guilty to a reduced charge, such as reckless driving or negligent driving in the first degree.  





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