Can You Remove Criminal Records in WA?

Lady justice and gavel

Washington has a legal provision for having criminal records cleared under specific circumstances. This process, known as vacating a criminal record, was revised in 2019 following the approval of a bill by the Legislature. The revision has allowed individuals with past convictions to move on from their criminal past and overcome the barriers often associated with such records.

Clearing Criminal Records: A Case Study

A case that exemplifies the possibility of clearing criminal records in Washington state is that of Representative Tarra Simmons. Simmons, a former inmate who served time for drug-related crimes, managed to have her criminal record cleared, enabling her to transition from being a former convict to becoming the state's first formerly incarcerated lawmaker.

Simmons' journey towards clearing her criminal record was not an easy one. After serving her sentence, she graduated with honors from the Seattle University School of Law in 2017. Despite her academic achievements, her past convictions impacted various aspects of her life, including volunteering at her children's schools and making medical decisions for her dying mother.

Simmons petitioned the state Supreme Court to allow her to sit for the bar exam, a request that was granted, paving the way for her election to the Legislature in 2020. However, her past still presented significant challenges, such as travel restrictions due to her criminal record.

With the support of her community, professional colleagues, and other formerly incarcerated individuals, Simmons attended a hearing where Judge Kevin Hull cleared her criminal record—this pivotal moment allowed her to move beyond what she referred to as an "invisible prison," giving her the chance to fully engage in her new role as a lawmaker.

Following the hearing, a celebration was held at a community center in Bremerton, where Simmons resides. The event symbolized liberation and hope for Simmons and others affected by the criminal justice system. Her story serves as an inspiration to many, including her two sons.

Ongoing Advocacy

While Simmons' case demonstrates the potential for clearing criminal records in Washington state, it also highlights the systemic barriers that individuals with a criminal past often face. Simmons has since actively advocated for criminal justice reform, working towards policies focused on legal justice in the Legislature.

Clearing criminal records in Washington state is possible under certain conditions. However, the process is complex and requires significant legal knowledge, advocacy, and support.

While there is a legal framework for record clearing in Washington, it is important to have an attorney guide you through the process to ensure you comply with all regulations and maximize your chances of success. The complexities of the legal system can be overwhelming for individuals without legal training, particularly when dealing with sensitive matters like sealing or expunging criminal records.

An experienced attorney can help you navigate these complexities, prepare necessary documentation, and represent your interests in court. They can also provide valuable counsel on the potential ramifications of sealing or expunging records, ensuring you are well informed about the process and its outcomes. Therefore, while the law provides an opportunity for record clearing, leveraging the experience of an attorney may be critical for achieving the best possible result.

A criminal record can be devastating but with the help of a qualified lawyer, you never have to face the legal system alone. Contact our legal advocates at Hester Law Group today to learn more.

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