The New Hope Act
A criminal conviction can dramatically affect a person's life long after any sentence imposed has been completed. A conviction can impair a person's rights and harm their reputation, career, and financial status. In some cases, however, a person who has been convicted of a crime may be eligible to have the record of the conviction vacated. Fortunately, recent changes to the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) have expanded the rights of criminal offenders with regard to vacating convictions, allowing more people to start anew. If you have one or more criminal convictions, you should consult a Tacoma expungement lawyer to discuss whether you may be eligible to have your conviction vacated under recent changes to the law. The proficient criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC can analyze your record and determine whether asking the court to vacate your conviction would be appropriate. We assist people seeking to clear their criminal records in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties.The New Hope Act
Recently, a bill known as the New Hope Act was signed into law. The changes made under the New Hope Act apply to adults who have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in a Washington State Court. Under RCW 9.94A.640, the court may vacate a conviction in certain instances. When a conviction is vacated, the court sets aside the guilty finding and dismisses the charge. The defendant is then released from any penalties arising out of the conviction, with the exception of the reinstatement of firearm rights. Furthermore, the conviction is removed from Washington criminal history reports, and a person who has had a conviction vacated can legally state that he or she has never been convicted of a crime.Changes Pertaining to Felony Convictions
With regard to felony convictions, anyone convicted of robbery in the second degree, assault in the second degree, or assault in the third degree (if it was not committed against a police officer) can seek to have the conviction vacated, as long as the conviction did not have a sexual motivation, firearm, or deadly weapon enhancement. Defendants must still wait five years before attempting to vacate a class C felony conviction and 10 years before asking the court to vacate a class B felony conviction. However, the waiting period now begins to run from the later of the person’s release from confinement or community custody, or their sentencing date. For crimes committed after July 1, 2000, however, any fines must be fully paid. Lastly, if a person asking the court to vacate a conviction cannot offer definitive proof that he or she completed the conditions of his or her sentence, the judge may nonetheless vacate the conviction upon a showing of good cause.Changes Pertaining to Misdemeanor Convictions
Under the changes implemented by the New Hope Act, people are no longer limited to vacating only one misdemeanor conviction. Instead, people can vacate any eligible misdemeanor conviction. Additionally, people who were convicted of more than one misdemeanor are not limited to vacating only the most recent conviction. A conviction for failing to register as a sex offender can now be vacated, and the imposition of a no-contact order in the five years prior to filing the petition to vacate will not bar the court from vacating a conviction, as long as the order is not active and was not violated in the last five years.Meet with an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in the Tacoma Area
The passing of the New Hope Act granted countless Washington residents who were previously convicted of crimes a chance to petition the court to vacate their convictions. If you have a prior conviction, you should meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss whether you may be afforded relief under the New Hope Act. At the Law Offices of Smith & White, PLLC, we can assist you in petitioning the court to vacate a criminal conviction if you meet the eligibility requirements. We have an office in Tacoma, and we are available to meet by appointment at our second office in Vashon. You can reach us via the online form or at 253-203-1645 to set up a free and confidential meeting to discuss a prior conviction.