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Restoring rights and expunging records

I know when I was a kid - okay, even as a young adult - I did some pretty stupid things. Maybe you didn't, but a lot of us did. Unfortunately, many of those stupid, immature acts come back to haunt us after we left those things way in the past. On job applications, school applications, license applications, presidential campaigns, the question inevitably comes up: “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?”

For most crimes, the laws of the State of Washington provide a mechanism to have the records of adult criminal convictions expunged or juvenile offense adjudications sealed such that, under the law, it acts as if the crime or offense never occurred. And, under the law, you can answer “No” to the above-question.

For some serious crimes and offenses, the record never goes away and cannot be expunged or sealed. This includes Class A felonies, such as murder, kidnapping first degree, robbery first degree, and so on. This prohibition also applies to most sex offenses.

Depending on the underlying crime or offense, the law imposes a certain amount of time before the motion to expunge or seal may be made. The law requires that a certain amount of crime-free behavior has passed before the expungement or sealing may occur. This may vary from two to ten years, depending on the nature of the underlying adult crime or juvenile offense.

Civil rights such as the right to vote and the right to possess firearms, lost by virtue of a criminal conviction, may be restored under these statutory procedures. Mistakes in the past do not have to prevent you from fully enjoying your constitutional and civil rights in the present or future.

 

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