New Hope Act Makes Expands Access to Vacating Criminal Records
By Ember Law | October 12, 2019
If you’ve read our prior post on expunging or vacating your criminal record, you learned that unless you met the stringent requirements, removing a conviction from your record was impossible. Fortunately, our legislature and governor recognized what criminal justice advocates have stated for a while – a criminal conviction can be a scarlet letter. It draws attention to your mistake while making it much more difficult to secure housing and employment that would allow someone to be an upstanding member of society.
As bill sponsor Drew Hansen noted:
The bill (1) streamlines the process for vacating a criminal conviction, (2) aligns the misdemeanor vacation rules with the felony vacation rules, changing the current laws where people can vacate unlimited felonies but only one misdemeanor, and (3) permits people who meet the criteria to petition a court to vacate certain types of robbery in the second degree, assault in the second degree, and assault in the third degree offenses.
Changes Regarding Felony Convictions
Robbery 2, Assault 2, and Assault 3 can now be vacated, provided that the conviction does not have a firearm, deadly weapon, or sexual motivation enhancement, and the Assault 3 cannot be against a police officer.
Fines often accrue interest, and finances are often the only impediment to someone vacating a conviction. You no longer have to wait five or ten years after paying your fines, though they will still have to be paid in full for any offense that occurred after July 1, 2000. The waiting periods are still five years for a class C felony and ten years for a class B felony, but the waiting time now starts from when you were sentenced, released from confinement, or released from DOC supervision, whichever occurred last. That means that you can potentially pay off fines and then immediately become eligible to vacate your conviction. Additionally, courts are now also required to waive accrued interest on non-restitution fines.
Having convictions subsequent to the one you wish to vacate may still impact your eligibility, but not forever. Even with subsequent convictions, you may still be eligible if you have no convictions in the last five (class C) or ten (class B) years. Even if you do have convictions in the last five or ten years, you may still be eligible to vacate those subsequent convictions and then vacate the previous ones. Additionally, where you cannot track down proof that you completed all conditions of your sentence, the judge is now permitted to take your word for it upon a showing of good cause.
Changes Regarding Misdemeanor & Gross Misdemeanor Convictions
You are no longer prevented from vacating a conviction if you have more than one in your life. Someone with a record can now vacate as many misdemeanors as are eligible, and isn’t limited to your most recent conviction. Additionally, you are no longer disqualified simply because you have been restrained by a no-contact order, so long as the no-contact order is not currently active and you did not violate that order in the last five years. However, Domestic Violence (“DV”) misdemeanors remain ineligible if you have more than one DV conviction arising from separate incidents.
No changes have been made regarding DUIs – a DUI conviction cannot be vacated. Those that have been pled down – reckless driving, negligent driving in the 1st degree – can be vacated but still have a ten year waiting period from the incident date. Misdemeanor failure to register as a sex offender can now be vacated.
You must still wait three years (for non-DV convictions) or five years (for DV-related convictions) from when you completed all conditions of your sentence, including probation and fines. If you have outstanding fines, you must pay them off before the waiting period starts.
Check out the folks over at Civil Survival for more information and resources, or give us a call at (206) 929-0609 for a free consultation.