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Posted on October 20, 2012 by Emily Beschen

Vacating Your Criminal Record

Recently we’ve had many clients inquiring about clearing their old criminal records. These individuals have been experiencing difficulty crossing the Canadian / United States border, obtaining professional licenses, getting approved for a Nexus pass, or getting hired for a new job (now that more than 80% of employers are performing criminal background checks).

Often by the time people seek the assistance of an attorney, the harm has already been done. So I  encourage clients to be proactive and get old convictions vacated when they qualify, rather than after the damage has been done.

Obtaining Your Criminal Record:

Often convictions are so old that people have forgotten whether the case resolved with a dismissal, an infraction, or a criminal conviction. If you think it is possible that you have convictions, order a background check. There are tons of data mining companies out there that will sell you reports, but I recommend ordering your criminal record from the government. Either the Washington State Patrol, the FBI, or both (depending on your goals).

You can get your Washington State Patrol report for $10.00 on their website and you get to see your criminal history (according to WSP) instantly. The report provides you with your case number(s), what the charge(s) was, the disposition of the case, and the jurisdiction where you received the conviction.

You can get your FBI report for $18.00. The FBI report is used by some potential employers, as well as the Federal Border Patrol Agents in determining whether a Canadian is criminally inadmissible to the US (our next blog will address crossing the border with a criminal record for Canadians).


Vacating a record:

  • creates the legal fiction that the conviction never existed
  • allows you to tell potential employers that you have not been convicted,
  • allows you to qualify for more professional licenses and job opportunities will open up,
  • allows you to become eligible for more or better loans, rent and other housing related matters.

Qualifying to Vacate your Record:

Once you know if you have convictions, what type of conviction is, where it occurred and how long ago it occurred, the next step is to determine whether you qualify to vacate it. If you have a misdemeanor or felony conviction and you meet the statutory test, vacate as soon as you can.

Review the below chart to see the number of years you should wait before inquiring into whether you qualify for vacating your record.

Class of Conviction Applicable waiting period after discharge from court supervision   and with no new criminal convictions
Class B   felony 10   years
Class C   felony 5 years
Domestic   Violence 5 years
Misdemeanor 3 years
Diversion/Deferred   Judgment 2 years

There are other disqualifiers, so be aware that even if you meet the timing requirements, there may be other disqualifications. For example, you cannot vacate a conviction if you have charges pending, if you are the subject of a no contact order, or if you committed a new crime since the conviction you are seeking to vacate. The statute also excludes certain types of crimes from those that can be vacated. For example, a conviction for a Driving Under the Influence cannot be removed from your record through this process (also it is important to note that anything on your driving record with the DOL will not be affected by vacating a conviction).

If you would like to review the statutes for vacating on your own see:

Fill out this form and see how we can help you:

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Emily Beschen

Emily C. Beschen is an Attorney at Butler Beschen Law PLLC. She is licensed in both Washington State and United States Federal District Court (Western District of Washington). Her primary focus is criminal defense and she has experience representing clients accused of felonies and misdemeanors. In addition to criminal defense Emily has taken on many cases involving defense of professional licensing.

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