The 2024 Washington Legislative short session (60 days) has started. Two bills have been filed that address changes to the vacate laws. This blog will describe those bills.
Senate Bill 5998: This bill would alter the timing requirements for eligibility to file a petition to vacate a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor conviction.
Under current law, a person must wait three years from the date all sentence conditions are completed, including payment of legal financial obligations, to file a petition. All misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor sentences contain a period of suspension or deferral, which means a person must wait up to twenty-four months from sentencing just to start this three year wait period. For domestic violence crimes, the wait period is five years.
This proposed bill would make two significant changes to this wait period.
- The three year wait period would no longer be linked to the completion of the suspension or deferral period. Instead, eligibility to vacate would commence three years from the latest of: (a) release from supervision; (b) release from confinement; or (c) date of sentencing.
- A person must still complete all sentence conditions, including payment of legal financial conditions, but date of completion no longer affects when a petition can be filed.
The timing requirement for domestic violence crimes is not changed to the same extent. A person must still wait five years from the date all sentence conditions are completed. This means this wait period will not commence until any period of suspension or deferral has passed. However, this wait period excludes payment of legal financial obligations. The date of payment for legal financial obligations does not affect the wait period.
What is the impact of this proposed change? If passed, this change would demonstrably speed up the process for many people to petition to vacate a conviction record for a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor offense.
House Bill 2227: This bill would make it possible to vacate DUI convictions.
Under current law, a DUI conviction cannot be vacated. Persons with a conviction for certain offenses amended from an original DUI charge may petition to vacate the conviction after a ten year wait period. The most common amendments are Negligent Driving first degree and Reckless Driving.
This proposed bill would make certain DUI convictions eligible to be vacated. A person is not eligible if they have a prior DUI or other alcohol or drug related conviction within ten years of the DUI conviction sought to be vacated. Therefore, it is not likely a person could vacate multiple DUI convictions if the convictions occurred close in time. Also, the proposed bill states that a vacated DUI conviction would still apply to sentencing requirements for any future vehicular homicide conviction.
What is the impact of this proposed change? If passed, this bill would allow many people to vacate a conviction record for DUI. This would typically apply to first time DUI offenders, but it is conceivable it could apply to other DUI convictions if they are spaced a part by more than ten years.
Assessment: I am hopeful SB5998 can pass this session. I think the proposed changes make sense and can gain political support in the legislature. While I support HB2227, I am doubtful it will pass. I doubt there is political support for the vacate of DUI offenses in Olympia.
This session concludes in March. For a bill to become law the bill must pass by majority vote in both chambers of the legislature and be signed by the Governor. Any changes in law would go into effect 90 days later.
Please check our site for future blog posts updating the progress of these bills.