In Washington State, expunging a record means to delete a record. The governing statute is RCW 10.97.060, which is reproduced below. In Washington, police and sheriff records and Washington State Patrol records can be expunged or deleted either 2 years after the date the case is dismissed or 3 years after an arrest was made if no conviction resulted from the arrest. It is very important to note that only "nonconviction" data can be expunged: this means you cannot have your record expunged if you were convicted of a crime. When we are hired to expunge a record, we typically have the Washington State Patrol and the arresting agency (usually a city police department or county sheriff's office) delete their records. We then follow up with several large, private data collection companies to have the record deleted from their databases as well.
Keep in mind that the last sentence of RCW 10.97.060 is very important. That sentence means that, if a judge wants to, he/she can order a record deleted even if it doesn't technically qualify for expungement.
Deletion of certain information, conditions. Criminal history record information which consists of nonconviction data only shall be subject to deletion from criminal justice agency files which are available and generally searched for the purpose of responding to inquiries concerning the criminal history of a named or otherwise identified individual when two years or longer have elapsed since the record became nonconviction data as a result of the entry of a disposition favorable to the defendant, or upon the passage of three years from the date of arrest or issuance of a citation or warrant for an offense for which a conviction was not obtained unless the defendant is a fugitive, or the case is under active prosecution according to a current certification made by the prosecuting attorney.
Such criminal history record information consisting of nonconviction data shall be deleted upon the request of the person who is the subject of the record: PROVIDED, HOWEVER, That the criminal justice agency maintaining the data may, at its option, refuse to make the deletion if:
- The disposition was a deferred prosecution or similar diversion of the alleged offender;
- The person who is the subject of the record has had a prior conviction for a felony or gross misdemeanor;
- The individual who is the subject of the record has been arrested for or charged with another crime during the intervening period.
Nothing in this chapter is intended to restrict the authority of any court, through appropriate judicial proceedings, to order the modification or deletion of a record in a particular cause or concerning a particular individual or event.