Vacating Criminal Conviction May Get Easier


Under current Washington law, a person can vacate an unlimited number of felonies but only one misdemeanor. A proposed bill, likely to pass this session, would change this disparity and streamline the process. Vacating a criminal conviction allows a person to truthfully state that they have not been convicted of a crime in job interviews, loan applications, college admission statements, etc. The vacation is possible after a certain waiting period has occurred (longer for felonies).

Some people believe that once a person has served time and repaid their debt to society they can easily return to life on the straight and narrow. However there are many roadblocks to becoming an upstanding citizen after a felony conviction. The legislature is starting to recognize that recidivism is directly related to unsuccessful reintegration into society. If the Court vacates a record of conviction, the offense is no longer included in the person’s history, helping with successful reintegration.

Washington House Bill 1041 may make vacating convictions easier.

Washington House Bill 1041 modifies eligibility for vacating felonies to streamline the process, and makes certain assault crimes that were previously precluded eligible for consideration. The waiting period to request a vacation would be modified to a strict time period (not from when the Washington Department of Corrections gets around to issuing a ‘Certificate of Discharge’). However, a person’s right to bear firearms is not restored. Of interest to blog readers, sex offenses and violent offenses may not be vacated.

While HB 1041 opens up the possibility of some additional offenses being eligible, streamlines the process, and shortens the waiting period, there are still requirements to be met that prevents an “automatic” vacation. A judge still reviews each application. The decision is ultimately discretionary.

If you have a criminal matter and would like to consult with a lawyer, contact Jan Olson at Ellis, Li & McKinstry, PLLC. You can reach Jan by calling (206) 682-0565 or by e-mail at