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How Long Are Washington Felonies on Your Record?

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When someone is convicted of a felony in Washington state, they are often left with a lot of questions about what comes next. One of the most pressing concerns is understanding how long this felony will stay on their record and what impact it will have on their future.

Felonies are viewed as more severe infractions and carry with them not only immediate legal consequences but also lingering effects that can influence employment, housing, education, and more. As such, these crimes often stay on your record indefinitely, unless you take steps to restrict this information. 

Felony versus Misdemeanor Crimes in Washington State

In Washington State, crimes are primarily categorized into two types: felonies and misdemeanors. The distinction lies in the severity of the crime and, consequently, the severity of the punishment. 

Misdemeanors are considered less severe offenses and typically result in penalties such as fines or shorter jail terms. Felonies, on the other hand, are more serious crimes. They carry stiffer penalties, including longer prison sentences, larger fines, and more significant long-term consequences on a person’s civil rights and professional opportunities.

How Long Do Felonies Usually Stay on Your Record?

In most cases, a state-level felony charge will stay on your record for the rest of your life. The only way to remove this charge is to have the record vacated or expunged. However, only certain individuals qualify for these processes. 

The reasoning behind this is that felony crimes are often very serious, and the public needs to be aware of this information in certain situations. If you apply for a job, housing, or even a bank account, your criminal record may be made available to them and could potentially affect your ability to move forward with your life. 

A Felony Can Have a Major Impact on Your Life

Even without a conviction, a felony can have a major impact on many areas of your personal and professional life. Even the process of being charged can disrupt your daily routines and strain relationships with those around you. If you find yourself facing these charges, it is crucial to obtain legal representation so that you can build the strongest possible case to protect your future and mitigate these effects.

Some of the impacts of a felony charge include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Employment: Many employers conduct background checks, and a felony conviction can lead to automatic disqualification for certain positions, especially those requiring trust and security clearance. It can also impact professional licensing, limiting access to certain career paths
  • Education: Higher education institutions may deny admission based on criminal records. Similarly, eligibility for financial aid and certain scholarships can be compromised, narrowing the opportunities for academic and professional advancement.
  • Housing: Finding housing can become more challenging with a felony on your record, as many landlords conduct background checks. A felony conviction may result in denied applications, making it difficult to secure stable housing.
  • Social and Civic Limitations: Convicted felons may face restrictions on their voting rights, ability to serve on a jury, and even ownership of firearms. These limitations affect not just their personal life but also their participation in societal and community activities.
  • Personal Relationships: The stigma associated with a felony conviction can strain family relationships and friendships, leading to isolation and difficulties in building trust and connecting with new people.

Can You Expunge or Vacate a Felony Conviction?

If you have a felony on your record, you may have options to remove it from public view. You cannot expunge a felony conviction in Washington, but you may be able to vacate it.

Expungement is a legal process that allows an individual to effectively erase or seal a conviction from their public record. This means that, upon successful expungement, the felony conviction would not appear in most background checks, thereby facilitating easier access to employment opportunities, housing, and education. 

In Washington, you may be eligible for expungement if:

  • You were never convicted of a felony. 
  • At least three years have passed since your arrest or two years have passed since your case was classified as non-conviction data.
  • You did not have any felony or gross misdemeanor charges before the arrest.
  • You did not face any felony or gross misdemeanor charges since the alleged crime.
  • The case is not pending.

On the other hand, vacating a conviction does not erase the felony but rather withdraws the guilty plea or verdict and dismisses the case. This action can restore certain rights, such as voting or firearm possession, which are often forfeited following a felony conviction. 

Like expungement, vacating a felony conviction is subject to various eligibility requirements. In Washington, you can petition for this pathway if you were charged with a Class B felony and at least 10 years have passed since your conviction, you were convicted of a Class C felony and at least five years have passed. Additionally, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The charge was not related to a sex crime.
  • You do not have any pending charges.
  • You do not have any new convictions on your record.
  • The charge is not related to driving under the influence.
  • The charge does not involve obscenity or the sexual exploitation of children.
  • You have not been the subject of a restraining order in the last five years.
  • You have paid all fines, court fees, or restitution funds related to the case.

Work with a Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer Today

While a felony conviction in Washington carries significant and lasting implications, avenues exist for people to address and potentially mitigate these impacts. However, these processes can be complex and challenging to navigate alone. A Washington criminal defense attorney can guide you through this process and help you protect your future.

If you are seeking to expunge or vacate the felony, your lawyer can assess your eligibility and file the necessary petitions. If you are facing a felony conviction, an attorney can develop a robust defense strategy and advocate for the best possible outcome in your case, whether it involves reduced penalties or convincing the court to dismiss the charges entirely. To protect your future, contact a Tacoma criminal defense lawyer right away to discuss your situation and plan your next steps.

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