Anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime knows how the penalties can carry on long after they have served their time and paid their fines. A criminal conviction on one’s record can interfere with job prospects, housing choices and other parts of a person’s life for many years. And if a person is later charged with another crime, they may face elevated charges when prosecutors discover a previous conviction.
Many people who have been convicted of crimes can get around this problem through clearing their records. Unfortunately, the process is not always complete, rarely easy and, depending on the criminal charges at issues, may not be available at all.
Washington state rules
Washington state law does not make it easy to clear one’s criminal record. There is some relief available, but the options vary depending on the type of charges involved and the type of person.
Courts often seal the records of people who have been convicted of juvenile crimes. However, they are not allowed to seal the records of juveniles who have been convicted of the most serious offenses, including certain violent crimes, sex crimes and drug crimes.
For adults, the options are much more limited. Generally, adults who have been convicted of certain crimes can get a court to agree to seal or redact their records on two conditions. The first is when the conviction has been vacated. The second is when the court agrees that there are compelling privacy or safety reasons for sealing the record that outweigh the public’s interest in keeping the record open.
Courts are more likely to vacate a conviction when it involves a misdemeanor. This option is not available to those who have been convicted of violent crimes, certain sex crimes and certain domestic violence-related crimes.
It’s not easy to start over. Those who have been convicted of a crime can discuss their options with a lawyer who has experience in post-conviction relief.