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Vacate Marijuana Conviction in Seattle? Not So Fast

Posted Sunday, November 4, 2018 by Andrew Charles Huff

Recently the Seattle City Attorney and the Mayor announced that the City would vacate the conviction records for hundreds of misdemeanor marijuana convictions and has petitioned the Municipal Court directly to take this action. One reason is the recent legalization for persons over age 21 in our state. However, it’s important to note that not all misdemeanor marijuana convictions in Seattle Municipal Court will be vacated. This has led to some believing their records have been cleared but in reality they have not been.

Vacating a misdemeanor conviction is clearly laid out in RCW 9.96.060 and the Seattle City Attorney cannot change these rules. Any person who has a misdemeanor marijuana conviction in Seattle Municipal Court who does not qualify under the law cannot have their conviction vacated.

The eligibility requirements to vacate a prior conviction are listed in RCW 9.96.060. A person may not have the record of conviction vacated if any one of the following are present:

1) The person has a pending criminal charge in any court.2) Less than three years have passed since the person completed the terms of sentence, including payment of financial obligations.3) The person has been convicted of a new crime since the date of conviction.4) The person has vacated a prior conviction.5) The person is either currently subject to a DV protection order, no-contact order, anti-harassment order, or civil restraining order, or has been subject to such an order in the last five years.

Since marijuana became legal in our state, the Legislature has considered changes to the laws governing vacating convictions to allow all misdemeanor marijuana convictions. But these attempts have gone nowhere and we are currently stuck with the law described above. But the City Attorney’s actions should begin the needed dialogue for changes to occur.

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