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

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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: Mar 10, 2020

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The basic reasons to have an criminal attorney:

  1. That you cannot do the paperwork properly;
  2. That a lawyer can better argue any disagreements with court personnel and the district attorney;
  3. Some employers may want verification from your lawyer that a conviction is being vacated;
  4. Washington State allows an attorney to appear in court without you being present: lifting an enormous amount of stress from the average non-lawyer.

Problem Areas Where Lawyers Are Most Skilled

One area where Washington State law is more complicated than most other states is in distinguishing between sealing and vacating.

  1. Even if a request to vacate is granted, the record will not be shunted from public view unless a winning argument, and accompanying paperwork for that argument, is also accepted by a court. Lawyers are typically best at handling these tasks.
  2. The possibility of having a record unsealed may also occur: while technically different from sealing or vacating, many of the same skills are presented.

The Cost of Mistakes

It is against the law to make misrepresentations in seeking to vacate or seal. Judges will not be tolerant of errors, even of innocent intent. The effect on correcting errors in prior requests can be costly. But in deciding to work with an attorney or go solo, be aware that’s electing the right attorney is also a mistake to avoid. The attorney you select to represent you should be familiar with the intricacies of sealing/vacating…since many lawyers fail to seal a record, and simply vacate the conviction.

So while it is not technically necessary to have a lawyer handle a vacation/sealing, for most people, the return on investing in a professional is well worthwhile.

Overview of Washington Criminal Vacating and Record Sealing

Eligibility for Clearing Adult Criminal Records in Washington

Application Process for Sealing/Vacating Adult Criminal Records in Washington

Eligibility for Sealing Juvenile Criminal Records

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