You may have heard that you should get your criminal record expunged. But what does “expunged” mean? And how do you do it?
At Findley & Rogers, this is one of our main areas of legal practice. We can help you expunge your record of an old conviction, and today in our blog we’re looking at how it works and what it can do for you.
What Does “Expunged” Mean: Expungement Explained
In most states, including Washington, state law makes it possible for you to have an old criminal conviction on your record “vacated.” Vacating a conviction, more commonly known as expunging it, means that the court will update its records to remove your finding of criminal guilt for that crime.
What Are the Benefits of That?
You should expunge your record for three main benefits:
- You will turn up clean on background checks for jobs, rental housing, credit applications, and so forth. This makes life a lot easier from an economic standpoint and will help you improve your standing in the community. What does “expunged” mean? It means dignity and economic opportunity!
- You can lawfully state, if asked, that you were never convicted of that crime. This is important on things like job and rental applications, where an old conviction—especially if it’s a felony—can cost you a good job offer or a good place to live.
- If you do get convicted of another crime in the future, the sentencing won’t be as severe, because the court won’t consider your previous crime.
So when you’re thinking “What does ‘expungement’ mean,” think about it in terms of the enormous benefits that you get from having a clean record!
Expunging Multiple Convictions
It’s possible in Washington State to expunge your record of more than one conviction. It’s a complicated process, but that’s where our legal experience comes in. Just let us know when you call for your free consultation.
What About Restoring Gun Rights?
If you’ve lost your gun rights due to a conviction, we can help you restore your firearm rights. Help you to discover how to get your gun rights back is a major area of our legal practice. Restoring gun rights is a separate legal process, but one that often goes hand-in-hand with the expungement process.
What Does “Expunged” Mean: Eligibility Requirements
The next thing to know about getting your record expunged is that it’s not available to everyone. There are eligibility requirements that have to be met. The good news is that the vast majority of crimes are eventually eligible for expungement. The bad news is that it takes time and full compliance with the court.
There’s a Mandatory Waiting Period
Before you can become eligible for expungement, you have to complete a waiting period. During this time, you can’t have any new criminal convictions or any new criminal charges pending. This shows the court that you’ve moved on from your past mistakes and have gotten your life back on track.
How you expunge a felony depends on the type of crime you committed. The waiting period varies from 3 to 10 years, based on your specific circumstances. It’s 3 years in the case of most misdemeanor convictions. It’s 5 years for Class C felonies and domestic violence misdemeanors. And it’s 10 years for Class B felonies.
Some Crimes Aren’t Eligible
You cannot expunge your record of Class A felonies, DUIs, and certain violent crimes or sex offenses. You would have to get a pardon from the governor or a change in state law.
Don’t Let Court Fines Hold You Back
Another aspect of the question “What does ‘expungement’ mean” is the fact that you have to repay your debts to society. One of the key eligibility requirements for expunging your record is that you pay all fines, fees, and restitution ordered by the court at your sentencing (and at any other point in the process).
Unfortunately, these fines are non-negotiable, and you can’t discharge them through bankruptcy. If at all possible, you should pay these fines as soon as possible, because you will not be able to expunge your record if you still owe fines on the case.
If you are suffering from economic hardship and have no realistic hope of being able to pay back the fines before you expunge your record, let us know during your free consultation with us, and we’ll go over your options.
Complete Your Other Sentencing Terms
In addition to the waiting period and any court-ordered fines, you also have to comply with any other court-ordered terms of your sentencing. This typically means completing penalties like probation, community service, counseling, and so forth. As with paying the fines, you cannot expunge a record while there are pending conditions of sentence.
Expungement Is for Older Crimes
When thinking about the question of “what does expungement mean,” the thing to realize is that all these various eligibility requirements mean that expungement is for people with an old conviction on their records—not something recent. It’s a way for people who have paid their dues back to society to escape from the enormous burden of a criminal record and get their life back on track.
When you call us for your free consultation, let us know if your conviction is recent, and we can advise you on how to best comply with your court-ordered requirements. Please note, however, that we can’t start the legal process to expunge your record until you’re eligible to petition the court.
What Does “Expunged” Mean: Expunging Your Record vs. Sealing It
There’s another legal process that is often confused with expungement. This is known as “sealing” your criminal record. While expunging a conviction removes the finding of guilt and thus removes the crime from your record, sealing your record essentially hides the record from public view.
Call Findley & Rogers for Help!
What does “expunged” mean? It means taking back control of your life and moving on from the past. Our passion as a law firm is to help ordinary citizens get back their our basic rights and dignity. Many people don’t know that their old criminal convictions don’t have to hang over their heads for life. In most cases, it’s your right under state law to expunge your record, seal your record, restore your gun rights, and get back your other civil rights, such as the right to vote.
Contact us today to schedule your free consultation! No matter where you live in Washington, we can help you get a second chance at life. We’ll take care of the paperwork, and you won’t have to show up in court. You have nothing to lose, so give us a call!