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New Hope Act: Vacating Criminal Convictions in Washington State

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A criminal conviction can have severe impacts on a person’s life, even after release from prison. A history of criminal offenses can make it more difficult to find housing, employment, volunteer work, or even insurance policies—but a recent law in Washington state may help remove these barriers. The New Hope Act, designed to help reintegrate formerly incarcerated people into society, streamlines the process to vacate criminal convictions. If you have a criminal record, you may be eligible to remove past misdemeanor and felony convictions.

What Is the New Hope Act?

The New Hope Act is a Washington state law that makes it easier for people with a criminal history to clear their records. Vacating a criminal conviction means that the court dismisses the charges associated with the guilty finding, releases the defendant from all penalties and restrictions associated with the charge, and removes the offense from the defendant’s criminal record. The law went into effect on July 28, 2019.

Before the New Hope Act was passed, only former inmates who received certain convictions could vacate their records. These rules made it difficult for Washington residents with a criminal background to reintegrate back into society. A criminal record can make it difficult to find work, which prevents former inmates from paying fines or supporting themselves after release.

These circumstances often force formerly incarcerated people into reoffending, perpetuating a cycle that is difficult to break. Under the New Hope Act, however, eligible inmates can file a petition to vacate their convictions as soon as they pay all of their fines and court fees. You will still need to receive a judge’s approval to vacate the conviction.

What Crimes Are Eligible to Be Vacated?

Under the New Hope Act, you can petition to vacate both misdemeanor and felony convictions. Prior to the passage of this law, you could only vacate the most recent misdemeanor on your record. Now, you can petition to vacate any number of misdemeanors on your record. To expunge misdemeanors from your record, you will need to meet the following requirements.

  • You have not been convicted of any crime within the last three years, or the last five years for domestic violence convictions.
  • You have complied with the conditions of your release for three years, or five years for a domestic violence conviction. This includes payment of fines and completing probation.
  • You are not subject to a no contact order and have not violated any no contact orders over the last five years.

Only certain types of felony convictions are eligible for expungement under the New Hope Act. You cannot vacate Class A felonies. You cannot vacate certain Class B or Class C felonies that are classified as violent crimes or crimes against children. However, the New Hope Act added second and third degree assault charges and second degree robbery crimes to its list of eligible convictions. To vacate your felony conviction, you will need to meet the following requirements.

  •  At least five years has passed since you were released from custody for a Class C felony, or 10 years for a Class B felony.
  • You have paid all fines and satisfied the conditions of your release.
  • You do not have any pending charges against you.

If you believe that you are eligible to vacate your criminal record under the New Hope Act, speak to a Tacoma felony attorney as soon as possible. Your lawyer will be able to evaluate your criminal history and determine whether or not you qualify. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to initiate the process of vacating your record.

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