Unfortunately, DUI is on a list of charges that the legislature feels should stay on your record for the rest of your life, regardless of the circumstances. The legislature allows a person to vacate a felony conviction that is not a violent offense, or a crime against person, but the legislature will not allow a person to vacate a first offense DUI no matter how much time has passed after the conviction. In other words, a massive theft of drug conviction can be vacated, but a DUI cannot.
The good news is that if the DUI is reduced to a lesser charge, such as Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving First Degree, the law allows the conviction to be vacated. RCW 9.96.060 governs vacating misdemeanor convictions. Before vacating the conviction, a variety of requirements must be met. The law only allows a person to vacate one conviction in their life, and you cannot vacate a conviction if you have a new or pending criminal charge against you.
The law is unsettled as to how much time you must wait before you can vacate a DUI reduced to Reckless Driving or Negligent Driving First. One part of RCW 9.96.060 states that your are eligible to vacate the conviction three years after you completed the terms of your sentence, which would typically be five years after the sentencing date. However, another part of RCW 9.96.060 states you cannot vacate if the person “had a subsequent alcohol or drug violation within ten years of the date of arrest.” So the law contradicts itself. The safest interpretation is that you must wait ten years from the arrest date to vacate a DUI reduced to a lesser charge. But some courts may elect to do it sooner. The Washington Court’s have information on the vacate laws and process online.
When an offense is vacated, it is seen as “dismissed” in the eyes of the law and a person may state they have never been convicted of the crime on any application. The court will even direct the Washington State Patrol to delete the record of the conviction from their publicly available WATCH database. However, just because an offense is vacated does not guarantee that the offense will not appear on private background checks. Moreover, the court file, and the police reports, are still available to the public. I have discussed the complicated situation with background checks on nwcrimeblog.com. Feel free to contact me if you have an offense you believe is ripe to be vacated.
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