A Guide to Sealing and Destroying Court Records, Vacating Convictions, and Deleting Criminal History Records
State of Washington
This brochure provides information about sealing and destroying court records, vacating convictions, and deleting criminal history records.
Courts and law enforcement agencies maintain records of those who are detained, arrested, charged, and convicted or acquitted of crimes. You have the right to inspect court records and criminal history records that pertain to you.
For information about a court record, contact the city or county court where the case was filed. This may be a municipal, district, juvenile, or superior court.
For information about a criminal history record, contact the law enforcement agency responsible for the case. This may be a city police department, county sheriff’s office, the Washington State Patrol, or another agency with police powers.
The authority to seal or destroy records and to vacate convictions is established by laws enacted by the Legislature and by rules adopted by the Washington State Supreme Court. State laws concerning court records and criminal history records change frequently, so you may wish to seek legal advice about your specific circumstances. You should consult an attorney to determine if sealing or destroying your record or vacating your conviction could affect your immigration status or your right to possess a firearm.Criminal History Records Glossary
Statutes, Rules, and Regulations
A court record includes documents, information, and exhibits that are maintained by the court in connection with a judicial proceeding. If a defendant is convicted, the record contains a disposition order or judgment and sentence specifying the crime(s) committed and the punishment imposed. If a defendant is acquitted or the court determines charges should not go forward, the record shows the action has been dismissed.
Court records are maintained by the clerk of each court. Court records, like court hearings, are generally open to the public. But a court can only address requests about cases filed in that court. If you have cases in more than one court, you must make a separate inquiry to each court.
Whether a court record may be sealed or destroyed and whether a conviction may be vacated depends on the type of crime involved (misdemeanor or felony) and the court where conviction is obtained (juvenile or adult).
Sealing or destroying a court record or vacating a conviction does not necessarily affect the records maintained by law enforcement agencies, other government agencies, or private concerns. Requests about records maintained by other agencies must be made to those agencies.
Sealing. The juvenile court file of an alleged or proven juvenile offender, which includes the petition or information, motions, memorandums, briefs, findings of the court, and court orders, is open to public inspection unless it is sealed under RCW 13.50.050.
A person who is the subject of an information filed under RCW 13.40.100 or a complaint filed with the prosecutor and referred for diversion under RCW 13.40.070 may file a motion to have the court order the sealing of the juvenile court file and other records relating to his or her case.
The court is not to grant a motion to seal records for class A offenses filed on or after July 1, 1997 unless:
Effect of Sealing. When a motion to seal records is granted, the proceedings in the case are to be treated as if they never occurred. Subsequent adjudication of a juvenile offense or a crime or charging of an adult felony voids a sealing order.
Destroying. Juvenile records, including those maintained by any court or law enforcement agency, are to be destroyed when:
A person 18 years of age or older whose only criminal history is one juvenile diversion agreement or counsel and release entered before June 12, 2008 may request that the court order destruction of his or her case record if the court finds that two years have passed since completion of the diversion agreement or counsel and release.
A person 23 years of age or older whose criminal history consists only of referrals for diversion may request that the court order destruction of the records of his or her case. The request is to be granted if the court finds that all diversion agreements have been successfully completed and no proceeding is pending that seeks conviction of the person for a criminal offense.
Deferred Disposition. If a juvenile is granted a deferral of disposition under RCW 13.40.127, at the conclusion of the period set forth in the order of deferral and upon the court’s finding of full compliance with conditions of supervision and payment of full restitution, his or her conviction, except under RCW 16.52.205 (first degree animal cruelty), is to be vacated. Records of deferred disposition cases are to be sealed no later than 30 days after the juvenile’s 18th birthday, provided that the juvenile does not have any charges pending at that time. If a juvenile has reached his or her 18th birthday before July 26, 2009 and does not have any charges pending, his or her request that the court issue an order sealing the records of the deferred dispo sition is to be granted.
Sealing and Destroying. Under General Rule 15, sealing a court record may be ordered when a conviction has been vacated or when the court finds that compelling privacy or safety concerns outweigh the public interest in access to the record. Current law does not allow for destroying the court record of a criminal action against an adult that results in a conviction or adverse finding.
Vacating Misdemeanors. RCW 9.96.060 authorizes a sentencing court to vacate a conviction for a misdemeanor or a gross misdemeanor if:
Forms to request that a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction be vacated may be obtained from the courts, online at http://www.courts.wa.gov/forms/, or from the Administrative Office of the Courts at (360) 705-5328.
Vacating Felonies. RCW 9.94A.640 provides for vacating some felony convictions. An offender who has been discharged may request, by motion, that the sentencing court vacate the conviction. But the record of conviction may not be cleared if:
No forms are available to request that felony convictions be vacated.
Effect of Vacating Conviction. An offender whose conviction has been vacated may state for all purposes that he or she has not been convicted of that crime. When a conviction is vacated, however, the court file is not destroyed. The conviction may be used in a later criminal prosecution.
Deferred Sentence. If an offender receives a deferred sentence and successfully completes probation, he or she may need to file a motion for dismissal with the court.
Criminal history record information includes descriptions and notations of detentions, arrests, indictments, informations or other formal criminal charges, and any dispositions. You have the right to inspect your criminal history record on file with a local police agency or with the Washington State Patrol.
Local police agencies submit criminal history record information to the State Patrol, which maintains the information in a statewide repository. Whether information contained in a law enforcement agency’s files may be modified, sealed, or deleted depends on the outcome of the case (acquittal or conviction) and on the court that heard the case (juvenile or adult). Modifying or deleting criminal history records does not necessarily change the records maintained by the courts.
A request to modify, seal, or destroy a court record must be directed to the court in which that record is filed.
A court order to seal a juvenile record results in the removal of references to his or her arrest and disposition from the records maintained by the State Patrol. Identifying information, however, is not subject to sealing or destruction. Identifying information includes photographs, fingerprints, and any other data that identifies a person by name, birth date, address, or physical characteristics.
Under RCW 10.97.060, a criminal history record on file with a law enforcement agency is to be deleted at the request of the person who is the subject of the record if:
Information about deleting nonconviction criminal record information from the State Patrol repository files may be obtained online at http://www.wsp.wa.gov/crime/crimhist.htm or by calling the Criminal History Support Unit at (360) 534 -2000. A separate request must be made to the local (arresting) police agency, in accordance with that agency’s procedure, to seek deletion of records in its possession.
Deletion of criminal history records is not available for cases that result in convictions or other dispositions adverse to the defendant.
A person who is the subject of a criminal history record may challenge the accuracy or completeness of that record. Challenges must be made in writing. Under RCW 43.43.730, a State Patrol decision declining a request to modify a record may be appealed.
CHALLENGE: To assert that a criminal history record on file with a law enforcement agency is inaccurate or incomplete.
CONVICTION OR OTHER DISPOSITION ADVERSE TO THE DEFENDANT: A disposition of charges other than a decision not to prosecute, a dismissal, or an acquittal.
CONVICTION RECORD: Criminal history record information relating to an incident that has led to a conviction or other disposition adverse to the subject.
CRIMINAL HISTORY RECORD INFORMATION: Data contained in records collected by criminal justice agencies other than courts, consisting of descriptions and notations of arrests, detentions, indictments, informations, or other formal criminal charges, and any dispositions, including sentences, correctional supervision, and release.
DEFERRED SENTENCE: A sentence that will not be carried out if the defendant meets certain requirements, such as complying with conditions of probation. A deferred sentence is considered adverse to the defendant.
DELETE: To eliminate existing information.
DISCHARGE: An offender’s release from confinement or supervision after completing sentence requirements.
DISMISSAL: The court-ordered termination of a case.
DISPOSITION: The formal conclusion of a criminal proceeding.
EXPUNGE: To physically destroy information.
FELONY: The offense classification for serious crimes. Felonies are designated class A, class B, and class C, with class A felonies subject to the longest terms of confinement.
GROSS MISDEMEANOR: An offense punishable by no more than 365 days in jail and $5,000. Gross misdemeanors may be filed in either courts of limited jurisdiction (district or municipal courts) or superior court.
JUVENILE OFFENDER: A person under the age of 18 years who has not been transferred to adult court and who has been found to have committed an offense by the juvenile court. Individuals 18 years of age or older over whom jurisdiction has been extended are also juvenile offenders.
MISDEMEANOR: An offense punishable by no more than 90 days in jail and $1000. May be filed in either courts of limited jurisdiction (district or municipal courts) or superior court.
MODIFY: To change existing information.
NONCONVICTION DATA: Criminal history record information relating to an incident that has not led to a conviction or other disposition adverse to the individual, and for which proceedings are no longer actively pending.
SEAL: To prevent access to a record.
SUSPENDED SENTENCE: A sentence postponed so the defendant is not required to serve time unless he or she commits another crime or violates a court-imposed condition. A suspended sentence is considered adverse to the defendant.
The following statutes, rules, and regulations concern court records and criminal history records:
Statutes, Rules, and Regulations
9.92.066 Termination of Suspended Sentence-Vacation of Conviction
446-16-025 Deletion of Arrest Records
|Courts | Organizations | News | Opinions | Rules | Forms | Directory | Library|
|Back to Top | Privacy and Disclaimer Notices|