Those who have a DUI on their record may wonder if they can expunge a DUI in Washington State. Expungement is the process of scrubbing a conviction from your record – affording you a clean state that can support a brighter future. While The Evergreen State doesn’t let people take a DUI off their record, it does allow people to expunge other driving-related misdemeanors. So, if people can successfully reduce their charges from a DUI to something else (e.g., reckless driving), expungement may be possible. That said, people must meet many requirements, such as not picking up another conviction between now and the prior offense.
Veitch Ault Defense understands the unique concerns that people face when charged with the offense of driving while intoxicated. Our outstanding team helps people prepare a sound defense. Our Washington State DUI attorneys have the knowledge, skills, and resources to pursue a favorable outcome and help minimize the fallout from a conviction.
Can a DUI Conviction Be Expunged in Washington State?
Can you expunge a DUI in Washington State? No, you can only remove specific misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions from your record in Washington. Unfortunately, driving under the influence conviction is not one of them. But this doesn’t mean all hope is lost.
Expungement may be possible if you reduce your DUI charge to another type of offense. Driving charges that Washington law may allow you to remove from your record include the following:
- Reckless driving,
- Negligent driving,
- Reckless endangerment, and
- Other lesser driving-related charges.
Bringing your strongest defense from the start is paramount if facing a DUI charge. Developing a sound defense strategy increases your chances of successfully reducing the DUI charge to one of those listed above. This favorable resolution may leave you with options, such as removing them from your record later.
What Is Expungement?
Expungement refers to removing or erasing a conviction from someone’s record, and it’s only available for specific charges. Expunging a conviction from your record may seal all the public information relevant to the case, including exhibits and documentation, potentially giving you a fresh start. To qualify for expungement, you may have to follow specific court-ordered conditions (such as not having subsequent arrests or convictions). You must also file a special document (the petition for expungement) with the court.
How Long Does It Take to Get a DUI Expunged?
While you can’t expunge a DUI conviction from your record in Washington State, you can try to plead down the charge to an offense that does qualify for expungement. For example, you might negotiate with the prosecution to reduce the DUI charges to reckless driving instead. Although these are serious charges in their own right, they come with particular advantages. For example, they may result in less jail time, and they may not carry the same degree of social stigma. Most importantly, you may be eligible to delete them later on. Because DUI record sealing – or expungement – isn’t possible in Washington, honing a solid defense from the outset is critical.
What Are the Requirements for Expungement?
Washington law has many requirements that people need to follow to seal or delete things from their criminal record. For example, you must prove the following:
- Three years must have passed since you complied with all the conditions handed down by the sentencing court;
- You can’t have any new convictions for crimes in any court on your record when you petition for expungement;
- You can’t have any new criminal charges pending when you petition for expungement; and
- You aren’t the defendant in a domestic violence protection, no-contact, anti-harassment, or a civil restraining order.
While clearing a DUI from your record through expungement isn’t an option, you may vacate a lesser conviction from your record. If you have questions about how to remove an offense from your criminal background, consider working closely with a King County DUI defense attorney.
The DUI Expungement Process
If you’re facing a DUI charge and the court finds you guilty, you can’t remove the conviction from your record. If, on the other hand, you reduced it to an offense that does qualify for expungement, the process involves carefully completing and submitting the proper documents. Often, this includes the petition to vacate and any supporting materials (such as the court orders in your prior criminal cases). After you submit the paperwork, the judge may hold a hearing to gather additional information. If not, however, the judge may review the materials and make a final decision in your case.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Have My DUI Expunged?
You don’t have to use a lawyer to expunge convictions from your record. But having one has many benefits, especially if you’re facing a DUI. The State of Washington doesn’t let people get rid of DUI convictions on their records. That said, reducing the charge to something they can vacate (like some reckless driving charges) may be possible. A seasoned attorney can help you accomplish this by gathering evidence, engaging in negotiations, and taking your case to trial.
If you work with an attorney, they can help you gather the available evidence to build a strong case that supports your innocence. This includes critical materials, such as:
- Eyewitness testimony,
- Everything the prosecution has, including exculpatory evidence that supports your innocence,
- The police report and any other relevant materials that law enforcement has,
- Any illegal search and seizure practices by the police, and
- Any faulty testing practices, such as relying on readings from poorly maintained, poorly calibrated, or otherwise inadequate breathalyzers.
They can then use these to tailor a defense strategy that increases the chance of having the charges reduced or dismissed. For example, they can seek evidence that the police made critical mistakes when measuring your BAC for the DUI.
Engaging in Skilled Negotiations
Because you can’t expunge a DUI from your record, being able to dismiss or reduce the charges is critical. If getting rid of the charge isn’t in the cards, you can seek to reduce it by negotiating with the government. Your lawyer can leverage your case’s strengths against weaknesses in the state’s arguments to negotiate a plea agreement. Attorneys have unique knowledge about the Washington court system and the process of negotiations. They can use this to help achieve a favorable outcome on your behalf.
Taking Your Case to Trial
Avoiding a DUI conviction in the first place bypasses the need for an expungement and is the best course of action whenever possible. If your case goes to trial, your attorney can help you prepare for this process by using their knowledge and experience to craft the most effective legal strategy. They can also search for evidence of the following factors that can significantly increase your chance of winning your case:
- Police practices that don’t adhere to strict search and seizure requirements or that fail to uphold your rights upon arrest,
- Unreliable DUI testing equipment or readings,
- DUI testing performed by officers who lack adequate training,
- Failure to store testing samples properly, and
- Chain of custody issues for evidence.
Your attorney can make the necessary objections during court and question key witnesses to help put you in a favorable position. If you need to remove a lesser charge from your record, your seasoned DUI attorney has the experience and legal savvy to help you make that happen.
Veitch Ault Defense: Our Experienced Washington State DUI Attorney Can Help
Being charged with a DUI can threaten to uproot your life and potentially cause you to lose your job, your license, and your rights. Because Washington law doesn’t let you remove a DUI from your record, setting yourself up for success from the start is essential. A seasoned DUI defense attorney can help you do just that.
The esteemed Washington State DUI attorneys at Veitch Ault Defense have a wealth of experience helping clients obtain favorable results. We understand our clients’ concerns about the legal and social consequences of getting this conviction. With nearly 20 years of criminal defense experience, Robert J. Ault leaves no stone unturned in pursuit of the most effective strategy to help his clients.
If you’re facing a DUI or want to remove a conviction from your record, please don’t hesitate to contact us by calling 425-332-1792 today.