Criminal History and Criminal Records
Criminal History and Criminal Records Brochure
Criminal Justice Records
This brochure provides information on the current state of the law regarding how to seal court records, how to vacate court records, and how to obtain the destruction or expungement of such records. You should be aware that the circumstances under which records may be vacated, destroyed or sealed are very limited. The power of judges to vacate, seal or expunge is limited by laws enacted by the legislature, court rules promulgated by the Supreme Court of Washington and the Constitution.
The term criminal justice agency, as used in this brochure, refers to courts, police agencies, probation departments, prisons and jails. All of these agencies maintain records on adults and juveniles who are arrested, detained, charged, convicted or acquitted. You have the legal right to inspect criminal history information or criminal record information that is about you.
This brochure also includes information on how to challenge the records maintained by law enforcement agencies, if you think those records are inaccurate.
The laws concerning criminal records and criminal history change frequently. You may wish to consult an attorney regarding your own circumstances.
You should consult an attorney to find out if sealing, vacating or destroying an adult or juvenile court or law enforcement record will have an effect on either your right to own or possess a firearm or your immigration status.
Court records are maintained by the clerk of each separate court. A court can only address requests made concerning records of cases filed in that court. If you were charged with crimes in several different courts, you will need to make your request to each separate court. Whether a court record of conviction may be vacated, sealed, or destroyed depends upon the type of conviction (felony or misdemeanor), and the court where the conviction was obtained (juvenile or adult).
The vacating, sealing, or destroying of a court record does not necessarily change or delete the records maintained by law enforcement agencies, the Department of Licensing or other government agencies. Requests to change or delete records maintained by other agencies should be made to that agency.
For More Information
- Washington State Court: http://www.courts.wa.gov - This site includes a statewide directory of courts, including addresses and telephone numbers, court rules, the most current version of this brochure, forms and information about assistance with legal research from the state law library. The Administrative Office Of The Courts may also be reached at 360-357-2130 or the Forms Line at 360-705-5328. Please note that this office cannot offer any legal advice.
- Office of the Code Reviser: http://slc.leg.wa.gov - This internet site contains the complete Revised Code of Washington (RCW) and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC). Also check your local library for copies of the RCW and the WAC.
- Washington State Patrol Identification and Criminal History Section: www.wa.gov/wsp/crime/crimhist.htm - Check the website or call (360) 705-5100 for information about criminal record history information maintained by the WSP.
- Washington State Bar Association: www.wsba.org - Check the website or call (206) 727-8200 for information on how to find an attorney in your area (or contact the local county bar association).