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Discharging A Felony Conviction In Washington

The lawyers of Platt & Buescher can help persons convicted of felony offenses obtain their certificate of discharge.

Certificate of Discharge

A person must have a certificate of discharge before he or she may apply to have a felony conviction vacated. RCW 9.94A.640(1). The certificate of discharge restores the person’s civil rights that have not been restored already pursuant to RCW 29A.08.520 (restoration of right to vote).

Before a person may be issued a certificate of discharge the person must complete all requirements of the sentence. RCW 9.94A.637(1)(a). This includes paying all fines, fees, costs, restitution, and any and all financial obligations. For some very old convictions a person may be entitled to a discharge notwithstanding nonpayment of legal financial obligations if such legal financial obligations have become unenforceable due to lapse of time. State v. Gossage, 165 Wash.2d 1 (2008). Also, completion of all requirements of one’s sentence does not include the expiration of a no contact condition of a sentence—i.e. one may obtain a certificate of discharge despite the fact that their sentence may include a no contact condition that remains in effect. RCW 9.94A.637(2)(a).

Once a person has completed all requirements of the sentence the department of corrections is required to notify the sentencing court. RCW 9.94A.637(1)(a). The sentencing court is the required to discharge the offender and provide him or her with a certificate of discharge. RCW 9.94A.637(1)(a).

It is critical to obtain a certificate of discharge because it is a necessary requirement that must be satisfied before a person may become eligible to vacate the felony conviction. Also to vacate a class B felony, at least ten years must pass after the date of discharge. To vacate a class C felony, at least five years must pass after the date of discharge. RCW 9.94A.640(1). So it is critical to obtain the certificate of discharge as soon as possible because it triggers the statutory time that must pass in order to become eligible to vacate a felony conviction.

Oftentimes courts do not automatically issue certificates of discharge although the department of corrections has provided notice of the completion of the requirements of the sentence. Such a delay may cause a person to have to wait longer to become eligible to vacate his or her felony than he or she otherwise would. Fortunately, State v. Johnson, 148 Wash.App. 33 (2008), permits retroactive dating of certificates of discharge to the time the court receives notice that the offender completed the requirements of his or her sentence. In other circumstances it may be advantageous to have a certificate of discharge dated to a later time if the person was convicted of a new crime since the date the person completed the terms of his or her sentence.

If you believe you have completed all requirements of your sentence and are eligible for a certificate of discharge please call Platt, Thompson and Buescher at 360-474-3994 or contact us online to talk with an expungement lawyer serving Oak Harbor, Seattle, King County, Island County, Bellingham, Whatcom County, Burlington, Mt. Vernon, and Skagit County.