Criminal Defense

Vancouver, WA Lawyers who Help Vacate Criminal Offenses

Working to clear your Washington criminal record from background searches

Just when you’ve finished the terms of your sentence and paid your debt to society, you discover that getting a new start isn’t as easy as you thought. When you apply for work, for an apartment, or for loans, you will likely be asked to agree to a background check.

These background checks can stop you in your tracks unless you get legal help. At Philbrook Law Office, PS, our Vancouver, WA defense lawyers can help you vacate your criminal record for many misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors. Thanks to a new law, even some felonies can be vacated. Contact us today to get started on your case, and you can get the clean slate you deserve.

Why vacating offenses from your record is a smart idea

With some notable exceptions, once you vacate your record:

  • You shall be released from all penalties and disabilities resulting from the offense.
  • The criminal conviction should be removed from your criminal history “for purposes of determining a sentence in any subsequent conviction.”
  • You can now state you’ve never been convicted of a crime on employment and housing applications.

The vacating of your conviction does not necessarily mean you’ll get your right to possess a firearm back, and if you’re convicted of certain domestic violence charges, your prior record may be used against you. But for the most part, you get to start your life all over again. You gain back your right to vote and access loans, and may be entitled to state and federal aid, too.

Vacating a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor in Vancouver, WA

Misdemeanor crimes are generally considered less serious than gross misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. RCW 9.96.060 is the statute that provides authority for vacating some misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses. Vacating an offense means that the criminal court:

  • Permits a defendant to withdraw a plea of guilty and enter a not-guilty plea;
  • Sets aside a guilty verdict; and
  • Dismisses an “information, indictment, complaint, or citation against the applicant and vacating the judgment and sentence.”

The statute also provides that you can request that a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor be vacated if at least three years have elapsed since you completed the prior sentence, including the payment of all financial obligations and court costs. If you have a misdemeanor marijuana conviction, and you were 21 years of age or older when the offense was committed, you can also apply to have your conviction vacated.

Why was my petition to vacate my misdemeanor record denied?

If you fail any one of the following conditions, you won’t be eligible for an order to vacate your criminal conviction:

  • You haven’t completed all the terms of your sentence.
  • There are pending criminal charges against you – in any state and any court.
  • The offense was a “violent” offense or an attempt to commit a “violent” offense.
  • The offense was a DUI or a similar type of offense. Other alcohol and drug concerns may also disqualify you.
  • The offense was a disqualifying sexual offense.
  • The offense was a disqualifying domestic violence offense. Your lawyer will explain which domestic violence offenses disqualify your request to vacate an order and when you might qualify.

Vacating felony charges in Vancouver, WA

As of July 2019, Washington State has allowed for the vacating of certain felony charges. Like the misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor law, RCW 9.94A.640 does not restore your gun rights – but it does give you the authority to deny the conviction on employment and housing forms.

Per the law:

An offender may not have the record of conviction cleared if:

  1. There are any criminal charges against the offender pending in any court of this state or another state, or in any federal court;
  2. The offense was a violent offense as defined in RCW 94A.030 or crime against persons as defined in RCW 43.43.830, except the following offenses may be vacated if the conviction did not include a firearm, deadly weapon, or sexual motivation enhancement: (i) Assault in the second degree under RCW 9A.36.021; (ii) assault in the third degree under RCW 9A.36.031 when not committed against a law enforcement officer or peace officer; and (iii) robbery in the second degree under RCW 9A.56.210;
  3. The offense is a class B felony and the offender has been convicted of a new crime in this state, another state, or federal court in the ten years prior to the application for vacation;
  4. The offense is a class C felony and the offender has been convicted of a new crime in this state, another state, or federal court in the five years prior to the application for vacation;
  5. The offense is a class B felony and less than ten years have passed since the later of: (i) The applicant's release from community custody; (ii) the applicant's release from full and partial confinement; or (iii) the applicant's sentencing date;
  6. The offense was a class C felony, other than a class C felony described in RCW 61.502(6) or 46.61.504(6), and less than five years have passed since the later of: (i) The applicant's release from community custody; (ii) the applicant's release from full and partial confinement; or (iii) the applicant's sentencing date; or
  7. The offense was a felony described in RCW 61.502or 46.61.504.

How long does it take to vacate a felony offense?

RCW 9.94A.640 does permit someone convicted of a felony to request that  his or her order be vacated under the following conditions:

  • Class B felony: occurred more than 10 years ago
  • Class C felony: occurred more than 5 years ago

There are other time limit requirements, depending on the nature of the offense and the sentence, which your Vancouver, WA criminal defense lawyer can explain. There are special rules if the prior offense was a DUI.

The new law provides that you can request that your felony be vacated if you haven’t paid off your financial obligations under the order.

The judge has discretion as to whether to grant the request to vacate a conviction. This means you need the help of an experienced Vancouver, WA criminal defense lawyer who understands how to request that your conviction be vacated, and what information the judge is looking for to be persuaded to grant your request.

Seek help vacating your criminal record in Washington State

There are some second chances in criminal cases. At Philbrook Law Office, we have fought for criminal defendants for 20 years. We also follow through with clients who have completed their sentences. In most misdemeanors and nonviolent felony cases, defendants can request that their criminal record be vacated so they can pass background checks used for employment, housing, and credit. To schedule a consultation at one of our offices in Vancouver or Battle Ground, WA, please call 360-695-3309 or complete our contact form. We also serve the greater Portland area and Oregon State.

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