New Hope Act Expands Eligibility for Vacating Criminal Convictions in Washington State
In April 2019, the Washington Legislature passed House Bill 1041, otherwise known as the New Hope Act. Governor Inslee signed the New Hope Act into law on May 9, 2019. It will become effective on July 28, 2019. The New Hope Act makes significant changes to vacating criminal convictions in Washington state. The Act eliminates many of the former inequities present in the process and broadens the eligibility requirements, making more people eligible to vacate their criminal record in Washington state. Read on to see if the New Hope Act helps you.
Does the New Hope Act apply to me?
The New Hope Act only applies to you if you have an adult criminal conviction (guilty finding) in a Washington state court for a felony or a misdemeanor that has not already been vacated. If your inquiry is about juvenile records, gun rights, or dismissed cases, the New Hope Act does not apply to you.
How does the New Hope Act affect vacating felony convictions?
The following changes are being made to vacating felonies:
- Robbery 2, assault 2, and assault 3 can now be vacated, provided that the conviction does not have a firearm enhancement, deadly weapon enhancement, sexual motivation enhancement, and assault 3 also cannot be against a police officer. These crimes were previously categorically prohibited from being vacated.
- You no longer have to wait five or ten years after paying your fines. The waiting periods are still five years for a class C felony and ten years for a class B felony, but the waiting time now starts from when you were sentenced, released from confinement, or released from DOC supervision, whichever occurred last. That means that you can potentially pay off fines and then immediately become eligible to vacate your conviction. For offenses that occurred after July 1, 2000, your fines must still be paid in full. However, courts are now also required to waive accrued interest on non-restitution fines.
- Having convictions subsequent to the one you wish to vacate may still impact your eligibility, but not forever. Even with subsequent convictions, you may still be eligible if you have no convictions in the last five (class C) or ten (class B) years. Even if you do have convictions in the last five or ten years, you may still be eligible to vacate those subsequent convictions and then vacate the previous ones.
- In situations where you cannot track down proof that you completed all conditions of your sentence, the judge is now allowed to take your word for it upon a showing of good cause.
How does the New Hope Act affect vacating misdemeanor convictions?
The following changes are being made to vacating misdemeanors:
- There is no longer a “one in a lifetime” limit. You can now vacate as many misdemeanors as are eligible. However, DV misdemeanors remain ineligible if you have more than one DV misdemeanor from separate incidents.
- You no longer have to vacate your most recent misdemeanor, you can choose which ones you want to vacate and which ones you want to leave.
- Misdemeanor failure to register as a sex offender can now be vacated.
- Having been restrained by a no-contact order in the last five years is no longer a disqualifier, so long as the no-contact order is not currently active and you did not violate that order in the last five years.
- You must still wait three (non-DV) or five (DV) years from when you completed all conditions of your sentence, including probation and fines. If you have outstanding fines, you must pay them off before the waiting period starts.
- If you have a DUI, or a misdemeanor pleaded down from a DUI, nothing changes. Straight DUIs cannot be vacated at all. Pleaded down offenses can be vacated but still have a ten year waiting period from the incident date.
What does vacating a Washington state conviction accomplish?
Vacating a Washington state conviction means that the guilty finding in the case is set aside and the charge is dismissed. You are released from all penalties and disabilities associated with that conviction (except your firearm rights are not restored, which is a separate process). The conviction is removed from your public Washington State Patrol criminal history report, and you are allowed to answer that you have never been convicted of that crime. The court record associated with the charge does remain public, but the status of the case changes from “guilty” to “vacated.” This is the only relief available under Washington state law for adult criminal convictions.
I want to take advantage of the New Hope Act - what should I do?
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