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Are Juvenile Records Automatically Sealed in the State of Washington?

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If you or your child received a criminal conviction as a minor, you may wonder how the record will impact the future. Depending on the nature and severity of the conviction, a juvenile record can have profound implications on a person’s ability to find employment or a place to live. You may want to keep these records from public view to protect yourself and your relationships. Contrary to popular belief, juvenile records are not always automatically sealed in Washington state, and you may need to petition the court to remove them.

Offenses That Aren’t Automatically Sealed

Before the passage of House Bill 1651 in March 2014, all juvenile records in the state of Washington were considered public records. As a result, individuals needed to undergo a very complicated process to seal them. However, HB 1651 changed this process. Now, most juvenile conviction records in Washington state are automatically sealed as long as the sentences are completed and no objections to the sealing are filed by opposing parties.

However, certain types of juvenile conviction records will not be automatically sealed in Washington state. Offences that are not automatically sealed include the following.

  • Class A felonies
  • Sex offenses
  • Certain drug offenses

Requirements for Sealing a Juvenile Record

If your juvenile offense is a Class A felony, sex offense, or qualifying drug offense, your record will not be automatically sealed. However, you can seek sealing by filing a petition and attending a hearing. If your case concluded prior to June 12, 2014, which is the date that the provisions of HB 1651 went into effect, you will also need to file a formal petition to seal your records.

Your case must meet the following requirements to be eligible for sealing.

  • At least 2 years have passed since the conviction. If your case was a Class A felony, at least 5 years must have passed.
  • There have been no new criminal charges since your conviction and no criminal charges are pending.
  • All restitution has been paid to the victim, all court fees and fines have been paid, and the provisions of your diversion agreement have been met.

There are additional requirements for juvenile sex offenses. These convictions require a waiting period between 3 and 5 years, depending on the offense. You must meet the above criteria and you cannot be required to register as a sex offender. If you are currently subject to this requirement, your attorney will need to petition the court to remove your registration obligation before you can petition for sealing.

When a court grants your record to be sealed, the official court file, the social file, and all other records related to your case will no longer be available to the public. As a result, the case will be treated as if it never occurred. You will not need to disclose the conviction on any job applications, admission forms, or other formal documents.

Navigating the Sealing Court Process

If you meet the requirements to seal a juvenile court record, it is important to contact a Washington criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Your attorney can evaluate your case and determine if your case qualifies for sealing. Your lawyer will file a motion in Washington state court to seal the file and gather the evidence necessary to argue your case in court. As soon as you realize that you may be eligible for sealing, contact a Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss your next steps.

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