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Are Your Old Criminal Records Holding You Back?

“But I was more qualified for the job!”  “My income could totally cover this loan!”  “My grades were rock solid!”

If you have ever been turned down by an employer, a lender, a college or rental agency, it may be because they ran a background check on you. The person who makes those approval or denial decisions likely stopped considering your application when they discovered you had a criminal record.

And it probably won’t be the last time your criminal past resurfaces to haunt you and cost you opportunities in life. The good news is that there is something you can do to fix it. At The Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, our attorneys are experienced with the court procedures to have old criminal records expunged from public view or even vacated altogether.

What Does Expunging Records Mean?

Were you aware that if you were charged with a crime and the case was later dismissed or you were eventually acquitted, you still have a criminal record? It seems unfair, but that’s how the system works. Now imagine the decision maker evaluating dozens or hundreds of applications. They are unlikely to do the extra research to find out the ultimate outcome of your criminal charges. They just say no or move on to a different candidate.

Having your criminal record expunged basically means that it is removed from the Washington State Patrol database, the official custodian of Washington criminal history. The benefit of this is that when a potential employer does a background check, they will not run across any official records.

  • Record expungement can only be done for cases that did not end with a conviction. In other words, charges were never filed, your case was dismissed, or you were found not guilty by a judge or jury.
  • Typically there is a waiting period of three or five years before you can get your records expunged, but under special circumstances, it might be possible to have it done sooner.

What Does Vacating Records Mean?

Having your criminal record vacated refers to crimes for which you were actually convicted. Vacating records means that a judge will actually reverse the conviction and dismiss the charge. Not every crime can be vacated, but some offenses that may be eligible to be vacated include drug crimes, theft and burglary convictions.

In 2019, the Washington Legislature expanded the scope of eligible crimes. Under the New Hope Act, certain felony convictions can be vacated. For example, robbery in the second degree, assault in the second-degree assault and assault in the third degree – Class B and Class C felonies – may qualify if the conviction did not involve a firearm, a deadly weapon or sexual motivation. The New Hope Act also allows for multiple misdemeanors to be vacated; under the old law, only one offense could be vacated or expunged.

Vacating criminal records can have important implications for immigration status. If your old conviction is vacated, it will not count against you as an aggravated felony (deportable offense). Our attorneys regularly represent noncitizens who are facing removal from the U.S. because of immigration consequences of criminal matters.

Do You Qualify For A New Start?

The criminal defense attorneys of Smith & White will evaluate your criminal background completely to determine if you are a candidate for expunging records or vacating records. This area of the law is very technical and the petition must be properly researched and documented. For example, you may have to let a certain time period pass and you must have met all conditions of the court, such as paying fines and completing probation.

We will discuss your options and help you pursue this remedy so that you can start living your life more freely. We offer an expert consultation, and you reach out 24/7. Call our Tacoma law firm at 253-363-8662 or contact us online.