We believe that all people can change and that everyone deserves a chance to build a better future. We also understand that old criminal convictions can pose a barrier to finding employment and housing. One in four Americans has a criminal record. We can help you vacate, expunge, and seal old criminal convictions so that they pose less of a barrier to you as you move forward.
How do I find out if I am Eligible?
- We only assist with adult convictions in the Spokane County court system. If the conviction occurred in Spokane while you were a juvenile (under 18), contact the Spokane County Juvenile Court at 509-477-4742. They have a program that can assist you with getting your juvenile conviction sealed.
- Call the CFJ front desk at 509-835-5211 and ask for a “Conviction Clearing Intake.”
- It is helpful to have a copy of your Defendant Case History (DCH) with you when you are talking to us or at your appointment. To get a free copy of your DCH, go to the Public Safety Building at 1100 West Mallon. Go to the cashier’s window and ask for a free copy of your Defendant Case History. You will need photo ID.
- We will first gather information to find out whether or not we can help you. This will be determined according to the following criteria: a. Whether you qualify under state law for your conviction to be vacated and/or sealed; b. Whether having this conviction vacated, expunged, and/or sealed will make a significant different in your ability to secure housing or employment; and c. Our available resources at the time you apply for assistance.
- Please note that we do not and cannot guarantee results.
How much does it cost?
- Vacate and Expungement Assistance (due at time Participation Agreement is signed): $200
- Sealing Assistance (due at time Representation Agreement is signed): $200.00
*We accept vouchers from DSHS, Career Path, and possibly others. Contact those organizations for more information. Also, we offer limited scholarships and sliding scale fee arrangements.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take? This varies, depending on our resources, your cooperation, and the courts. Generally, for a vacation, it takes approximately 6 weeks. Requesting that records be sealed is a more extensive process that requires a hearing before a judge; this could take up to 2 months, depending on attorney time and court schedules.
What does it mean to Vacate, Expunge and Seal an Adult Criminal Conviction in Washington State? Before you decide whether you would like the Center’s assistance in attempting to vacate, expunge or seal an adult criminal conviction, it is important that you understand what each of these means.
Vacate: A “vacated” conviction is one where the court withdraws a guilty plea or judgment and then dismisses the case. If your conviction has been vacated, you can legally say that you have never been convicted in that case; you cannot say, however, that you have never been charged with that crime. The court records of a vacated case will show that the conviction has been vacated, and will still be open to the public.
Expunge: After a conviction is vacated, the record becomes non-conviction data. Non-conviction data also consists of arrest records that did not lead to a conviction. “Expungement” means removing this non-conviction data from Washington State Patrol (WSP) records. Many employers rely on WSP for background checks so it is important that this information be up to date and accurate. A simple form is used to ask WSP to expunge non-conviction data.
Seal: Sealing a court record removes the record from public view (the court will no longer release the record to anyone who requests to see it). Getting a court record sealed is difficult because the law favors openness of court records to the public. Further, a court record can only be sealed for a certain period of time, not forever. In determining whether to seal a court record, the court will look to see if the public’s access to the record is causing a “serious and imminent threat” to some important interest, like obtaining employment or housing. We recommend getting your conviction vacated first, and then deciding whether you want to take the extra step and get it sealed. Sealing is not included in the vacate/expunge service – Sealing is a separate service that requires its own intake appointment, fee, and eligibility screening.
More Resources about Criminal Records and Employment:
The ACLU of Washington’s Second Chances Project has a wealth of information regarding criminal records and employment and housing, including the following resources:
- “Getting and Reading Criminal History Records in Washington”
- “Guide to Employment and Criminal Records”
See our Smart Justice Project page to learn how we are trying to create a more just criminal justice system that allows individuals to successfully re-enter our community and have equal and fair access to opportunities.