Application Process for Sealing/Vacating Adult Criminal Records in Washington

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 15, 2021

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The sealing/vacating process is a nine-step process.

  1. Obtain an unofficial personal criminal history check (“rap sheet”) through the Washington State Patrol website at www.// OR:

    Criminal History Section
    Washington State Patrol
    PO Box 42633
    Olympia, WA 98504

  2. Obtain copies of your court file Certificate and Order of Discharge and a copy of your judgment and sentence.
  3. Draft a “Declaration in Support “. In the Declaration, you will state the information necessary to meet the basic requirements for a vacate motion. You should type out the Declaration.
  4. Draft (a) the Motion to Vacate conviction record and (b) a separate motion to seal the criminal file.
  5. Notify the prosecutor’s office you are trying to vacate/seal criminal records, by sending: (1) motion to vacate/seal court records; (2) declaration in support of motion to vacate/seal; (3) judgment and sentence; (4) certificate and order of discharge to the prosecutor. Ask the prosecutor if they will agree to vacate or seal.
  6. Request a hearing date/notice of hearing. Contact the court when your papers are ready for filing. Ask the clerk if there are any additional forms you need to file with the court. Some courts have special local rules.
  7. Make three copies of all of your documents. File the original documents in court. Transmit a copy of your documents to the prosecutor’s office.
  8. Complete the declaration of service form, make four copies, and then file the original with the court. Bring the other copies to the hearing.
  9. Prepare for and attend the hearing. Organize your papers and supporting documentation into three identical binders, with an easy to use index and tabbed. Prepare a brief outline of what you want to tell the judge. You may present witnesses in support of your motion to seal. Witnesses may testify that they have personal knowledge of your life: i.e., if you can’t get a job because of background check, or lost a job because of your criminal record, or don’t qualify for a job because of criminal record. If the judge signs your order, you will need to get five copies of the signed order.
  10. Finally, send an order to the Washington State Patrol and other agencies that have your criminal records. Include a letter requesting they stop releasing all information regarding your conviction. Include a request that they forward the information on the sealing/vacating of your records to other agencies, including: the Department of Corrections (if applicable), local law enforcement agencies, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. You, too, should send notices to these other agencies.

The court order should be effective within 90 days. Contact the Washington State Patrol after 90 days and request an official copy of your criminal history report to confirm the criminal conviction reports have been removed.

Caution: some private companies may have copies of your criminal records. Mail a copy of your court order requesting they cease disseminating your criminal records to the public.

For more articles on clearing your criminal record in Washington, click on the following articles:

Overview of Washington Criminal Vacating and Record Sealing

Eligibility for Clearing Adult Criminal Records in Washington

Eligibility for Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records

Do I Need an Attorney to File for a Sealing or Vacating of my Criminal Record in Washington State?

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