Sealing Juvenile Criminal Convictions
In Washington State, juvenile court records are publicly accessible. This means the contents of any juvenile court file may be accessed through the courts, and record of any conviction may be revealed on a criminal history report maintained by the Washington State Patrol (WATCH).
In 2014 the Washington Legislature fundamentally changed the rules for vacating and sealing juvenile criminal convictions. RCW 13.50.260
First, starting in 2014 the juvenile courts will enter an immediate order sealing the juvenile court file after a juvenile has been acquitted of any criminal charge or upon a dismissal of the charge.
Second, juvenile courts must now enter sealing orders on cases that occur after this new law went into effect. The court will seal a file once all the following criterial are met.
- The juvenile defendant turned eighteen.
- Any probation term has been completed.
- Any period of confinement has been completed.
- The conviction was not:
- All terms and conditions of sentence have been completed including all financial obligations.
The only exceptions to this mandatory sealing law is if: (i) the court receives an objection to sealing the file; or (ii) the court notes a compelling reason not to seal the file. If this occurs then the court will hold a formal hearing. At the hearing the court shall enter an order sealing the records unless the court determines that sealing the file is not appropriate.
For cases that were resolved before the 2014 change in law, the statute still allows for vacating and sealing juvenile convictions under the following circumstances.
The court shall grant a motion for a class A offense if:
- The juvenile has spent at least five consecutive years in the community without being convicted of any criminal act since being released from confinement, residential treatment, or entry of disposition (whichever occurs last).
- There are no pending criminal charges against the juvenile defendant.
- The juvenile defendant is no longer required to register as a sex offender.
- The juvenile defendant was not convicted of rape in the first degree, rape in the second degree, or indecent liberties actually committed with forcible compulsion.
- All restitution has been paid.
The court shall grant a motion for a class B and C felonies and misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor convictions using the same criteria as above, with the exception that the juvenile defendant must only prove he or she has spent at least two consecutive years in the community without being convicted of any criminal act since being released from confinement, residential treatment, or entry of disposition (whichever occurs last).
In 2011, the Legislature enacted a new law to restrict the disclosure of juvenile conviction records on background checks for employment purposes. Under the Washington State Fair Credit Reporting Act (RCW 19.182) no consumer reporting agency may make a consumer report (background check) containing any juvenile records when the juvenile defendant is twenty-one years of age or older at the time of the report. RCW 19.182.040