Video Blog

Mar 19, 2021, Have a Washington Felony Record? Vacate it! New Laws Mean More People Qualify.

I’m Washington State expungement attorney Stefanie Dorn and here is what you need to know about vacating a felony conviction in Washington State. So, first of all, what vacating means it it essentially releases you from all the penalties and disabilities associated with the crime and allows you to state for all purposes, including housing and employment that you have not been convicted.  A lot more felonies are eligible because of a recent change in law.

In terms of eligibility, the first step is determining what class or type your conviction falls into.  Class A felonies, which fall into the very very serious category cannot be vacated.  However, the majority of Class B and Class C felonies can be vacated.  An example of a Class B felony auto theft, burglary, certain types of assaults.  An example of a Class C felony would be certain thefts, forgery, a lot of drug cases fall into that category.

So, if you have a Class B or C felony what do you need to have done in order to be able to vacate it.  First, a sufficient amount of time has to have passed.  For a Class B or more serious felony it is 10 years since you did everything you were told to do, your time, your fees, your DOC and things along those lines and also 10 years without any other convictions.  For class C felonies, a lot of the theft and drug charges, it has to have been 5 years since you finished everything and also 5 years out of trouble.  So, if you think you may meet that eligibility criteria please give my office a call and we can talk about the process and how to get started on moving you past this.

Feb 26, 2022 Drug Conviction in Washington? The State May Owe you Money!

When the Washington State Supreme Court, in State v. Blake, invalidated ever drug possession conviction ever because the law was illegal, they also required that the courts refund people any legal financial obligations they may have paid under the unfair drug statues they were convicted under.  Hi my name is attorney Stefanie Dorn, I’m an expungement lawyer in Washington, and I almost didn’t believe it either until my client got their first check in the mail with a full refund for all the legal financial obligations they have paid.

It is a progressive area of law, it is getting much more progressive.  People have paid thousands and thousands of dollars, it’s amazing the amount of court fees that are associated with any criminal charge, and the courts have specifically allocated money to this, and the process can even pay for itself sometimes.  So, if you have any questions or would like to talk more about a refund of your legal financial obligations, please give my office a call.  Thank you.

 

 

Jan 15, 2022, Convicted of Domestic Violence in Washington State but Actually the Victim?

Mandatory arrest laws in Washington State have created many situations where police office arrive at the scene maybe they are faced with a victim that is emotional, maybe they see defensive wounds such as scratches on the perpetrator and the police make the wrong call and they arrest the victim.  Then the victim has to answer to the domestic violence allegations.  The law has recognized the situation and just as of July of 2020 has changed the vacate statue to give victims of domestic violence a lot more leeway and flexibility in terms of vacating the convictions that were essentially weaponized against them as another tool by their abuser.

So, how this works is that the court has relaxed the process for vacating, that means taking away the conviction, on cases where the defendant is a victim of domestic violence.  It’s something that you work on with your attorney, generally including declarations describing the situation anything supportive along those lines and then it gets sent to the prosecutor for review and goes from there.  This is a really positive trend in essentially trying to recognize that the domestic violence rules could have gone a little too far sometimes with the mandatory arrests and the consequences of that.

Dec 30, 2021, Owe Court Fines in Washington, you may Still be Able to Expunge Your Record!

 

Anyone that has ever been involved in the criminal justice system it is a lot of $100 here, $300 there, $600 there.  It adds up quite a bit, and a lot of times these outstanding financial obligations are what get in the way of people sealing their record, vacating their record, or otherwise just moving past it.  So, if you are somebody that is looking at an extraordinary amount of debt to the court, the first thing I always say is consistency is key.  You want to make consistent payment of what you can afford, at the very minimum.

I’ve had clients that have paid $10 a month for 3 years on very very large bills and made little dents in them, but based on that payment history, the prosecutor was willing to waive the interest and she waived part of the principal, so there is a lot of flexibility in terms of the interest especially.  So if you are looking at a heavy restitution bill, give an attorney a call because there might be some flexibility in those numbers and they might be able to help you move past it.  My name is Stefanie Dorn, and you can give my office a call if you like.

Nov 4, 2021 Juvenile Washington Criminal Record Holding you Back? Seal it!

You are likely eligible to have that juvenile record sealed.  Sealed goes a step farther than vacating and instead of just un-doing the conviction essentially clears up the entire record making it not accessible to public access, to those data mine companies that get all that information for money.  In Washington State eligibility is pretty broad and most people that I speak to, I find that they do qualify.

You have to have stayed out of trouble for 2 years, consecutive crime free, it doesn’t have to be the last 2 years, just 2 years without any trouble.  That’s for B felonies, C felonies, and gross misdemeanors.  It’s 5 years for class A felonies.  And then paid all your restitution, restitution can be negotiated too.  If that is something you haven’t paid in full that’s something you can talk to an attorney about it.

The final requirement is that you are not required to register as a sex offender.  Those are what the court is looking at to determine if you can seal your juvenile record.  An attorney can help you with this.  Give my office a call.

Oct 9, 2021 Have a Washington State Drug Conviction? You are Entitled to Relief!

State v. Blake is a big game changer out here in Washington State because it is taking all of the convictions that have ever happened, since the 70s and all that, on possession of drug cases and saying that this law that it was charged under is a bad invalid law and so therefore these convictions cannot stand.  This came because a woman was convicted for having methamphetamine in her pants pockets but the pants weren’t hers.  She had borrowed them, her friend got them at a thrift store.

The Court said we can’t punish unknowing possession, that’s not fair that she’s responsible for something that she didn’t even know was in her pocket.  So, we have to look at this law and since it doesn’t have an intent element, that means that none of the convictions under this law or valid.

So, what does this mean? Does this mean they are going to throw them all out? They probably should.  But instead what they’re doing is coming up procedures and processes and you generally need to work with the courts to get the case off of your record.  Since I made this video, some prosecutor’s office, such as King County, are even petitioning the court on behalf of the defendants.  They have streamlined the process and it is much simpler than a regular vacate.

Courts are also working to get people back any legal financial obligations they have paid on those drug cases.  So, it’s a very progressive area law, there is a lot of movement, and I would be happy  to help you with it.

Jun 18, 2021, Have a Washington Arrest Record? Most Non-Conviction Arrests are Eligible to be Expunged!

In this post I want to talk about expunging an arrest and what that means and how the process works and how a Washington state expungement lawyer can help you with it.  So there are situations were someone is arrested for a crime and then they are charged with the crime maybe they are not charged with the crime, but it results without a conviction.  Maybe you entered into some type of a deal with the prosecutor where it would stay not a conviction if you complied with the terms, such as a stipulated order of continuance, maybe you were found not guilty, maybe charges were never filed.

If you have an arrest but not a conviction, you may qualify to expunge the arrest record.  It is a paperwork process I help clients with, it involves sending a fingerprinting kit and prepared paperwork as well as a self addressed stamped envelope for me.  I get it back, write a letter and send it to the Washington State Patrol.

What that essentially does as clears the arrest from the Washington State Patrol database and then they are the repository or holder of records and then they send that information to the FBI for the FBI to update their databases as well.  Expunging an arrest is something that people consider when they are having issues with travel, perhaps for immigration, employment or housing or just to feel like you have a clean slate.  My office can help.  Please give me a call.

Mar 19, 2021, Have a Reckless or Negligent Driving Conviction? Vacate it!

I’m Washington State expungement attorney Stefanie Dorn and in this quick video I want to tack about how if you plead guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving or negligent driving from a case that was amended amended down as a DUI you may be eligible to vacate that conviction. It has to have been 10 years since the arrest.  You also have to have completed all the terms of your sentence and stayed out of trouble for a period of time.  If you think those conditions may apply to you, give my office a call and we can further determine your eligibly and help you put this past you and continue to move forward.

Mar 19, 2021, Have a Criminal Record in Washington State? Vacating can help!

I’m Washington State expungement attorney Stefanie Dorn, and I want to talk a little bit about what it means to vacate a conviction in Washington State. So, first of all the terms vacate, expunge, often get used interchangeably for the same concept which is essentially taking your guilty plea or verdict and turning it into a not guilty verdict.  Then the court dismisses the charging document and releases you from all penalties and disabilities associated with the crime, and that specific language is in the court orders.

The orders say specifically that I can state that I have not been convicted of this for all purposes including housing and employment.  The vacate record gets processed through the Washington State Patrol, who is the repository of records, then they send it up to the FBI who update their records accordingly and remove the conviction.  If this is something that you might be interested in feel free to give my office a call.

Mar 19, 2021, Have a Washington Misdemeanor Record? Vacate it! New Laws Mean More People Qualify.

I’m Washington State expungement attorney Stefanie Dorn and I wanted to talk to you about vacating a misdemeanor conviction and what that means and how you would find out if you qualify.  So vacating a conviction means, it essentially sets aside your guilty plea, or withdraws the verdict if you were found guilt, enters a not guilty plea and then dismisses the charging document, allowing you to state for all purposes, including housing and employment, that you have not been convicted of the offense.

If it was a misdemeanor, whether or not you’re eligible does depend on the case type there are certain sex types, such as some sex cases, that are not eligible also DUIs are not eligible unless they have been amended down to a reduced charge.  Domestic violence is something that is eligible as are the majority of other assorted crimes and misdemeanors.

In terms of timeframe to qualify, if it’s a domestic violence offense, it has to have been at least 5 years since you’ve completed everything.  If it’s a general offense such as a criminal trespass, a theft, a harassment case, that is 3 years that you have to have past where you have essentially stayed out of trouble and completed all the other terms and conditions of your sentence.  If you think you may be eligible, feel free to give my office a call.

March 15, 2021 Why you Should Vacate or Expunge your Criminal Record and how New Laws have made it Easier

Do you have a criminal record that is holding you back? Have your been arrested for something and even though you were not convicted, it keeps coming up preventing you from travel, school, work opportunities.  My name is Stefanie Dorn, and I am an expungement lawyer here to help you.

We know that the punishments from the criminal justice system do not stop at sentencing and new laws have passed that make it even easier to vacate your criminal conviction or expunge your arrest.  This can help you with your job, your certifications and licenses, and moving forward from something in life that you are ready to get past.  I’m an experienced expungement attorney.  I’ve handled hundreds of these cases, I like the intricacies, and results I can get for my clients.

Feb 10, 2021, FAQ: Criminal Record Holding You Back in Washington State?

What does it mean to expunge a record? So expungement is a term that people often use generally for taking care of or cleaning up a record, but there are actually different words that mean different things depending on what your particular need is for your record.  For example, if someone was arrested but then nothing ever came from it in terms of a conviction, or you got a deal that did not result in a conviction, you may not have a conviction on your record but you still have a conviction on your record, so the process then would be to expunge the arrest with Washington State Patrol.

Someone who, for example, has been convicted of a theft and has been having a hard time getting job opportunities because of that conviction, the process in that case would be a motion to vacate.  Vacating refers to the conviction itself and the courts, whereas expungement generally refers to the arrest record, however, people do tend to use the words interchangeably, which is a lot of the source for the confusion.

What are the benefits of doing this process? The legislature just, in 2019, changed the law to make more people eligible to vacate their cases and they also clarified the specific benefits of vacating a criminal conviction.  The law and the orders specifically state now that you can state for all purposes, including housing and employment, that you have not been convicted of the crime. Once the conviction has been vacated, it gets sent off to the Washington State Patrol, and they are the repository of records, or record holders, and then they disseminate that to the FBI in order to have them update their official records as well.

So, it can open a lot of doors for people in terms of employment.  I’ve had clients do it when they are having a hard time traveling, for visas, or other immigration issues.  Sometimes people will consider vacating their record for employment, school, and because they are just generally ready to move past things.

How long does this process take? It depends. I have gotten cases through in as quick as a few weeks to a month and then I have had other courts where the clerks and judges sit on my motions for a period of time and I have to consistently follow-up.  There are certain things with timing that are a little outside my control, but I try and get all the work on my end done in as efficient of a timeframe as possible.

Once it’s off to the courts, it can take a little while, like a week or so, to get a hearing set.  Once a hearing is set it is generally for about a month out or so.  Then the processing time once it has been granted is about a month to get it all updated with the Washington State Patrol and FBI.  I would say overall the process takes maybe 2-4 months or 3-6 months for King County and Seattle, which tend to be slower.

Do I have to be there for this to happen? So the good thing about these records and expunging and vacating it is generally a paperwork process and something that I can do on your behalf.  Once I get the information that I need from you, I start by pulling the records and preparing the paperwork, and then I send it over to you for review and an easy electronic signature.  Then, I send it over to the prosecutor and see if we can do it by agreement.

Oftentimes, on these cases there isn’t even a hearing; I am able to just get them handled on agreement of the parties.  Sometimes there is a court hearing, lately they have been handled over Zoom if they have been happening at all.  They are generally not terribly contentious and you do not need to be present for them.  I handle it.

Does this apply to only simple small cases? What if I have a more serious case or a felony? You can absolutely vacate more serious cases.  You can vacate felonies.  There are a number of different case types that can be vacated.  The change in law in 2019 opened the door even further.  People who have DUIs that have been amended down to reckless or negligent driving are eligible to vacate after a period of time.  People that have even been convicted of non-violent felonies, even in the first degree, such as theft first degree, those can be vacated as well.  The court does have some restrictions when it comes to child sex cases and some other things, but I would advise calling me for a consult.

What if I have an arrest but not a conviction on my record? When can I expunge the arrest? Assuming you were arrested and nothing ever came from it conviction wise, either no charges were filed or they were filed and dismissed it, you may be eligible to expunge your arrest with Washington State Patrol either 3 years from the date of the arrest or 2 years from when it became non-conviction data, whichever is sooner.  So if it got filed and in court the next morning they heard it said were not going to go forward with this it would be 2 years from that date or 3 years from the date of the arrest, whichever is sooner.

What if I still owe fines? On a case you are trying to vacate if you still owe fines, that change in law in 2019 created more flexibility in terms of legal financial obligations.  You may be able to backdate the payment and potentially even negotiate away some of the fines.  For example, I had a client with something like $30,000 in remaining restitution but $27,000 was interest and the court and prosecutor were willing to agree to waive all that interest.

When should I hire a lawyer to help me with this process? When you think you may have a potential issue.  I offer free consultations so you can give my office a call and I can talk with you about your case to see if it’s something that looks like we could vacate or expunge.  If it gets really in-depth and there are records that I need to pull in order to advise, sometimes I do charge a consultation fee, but most consultations can be done over the phone and for free and I can let you know whether or not you would likely qualify, what any potential issues might be, and our timeline going forward.

How much does it cost? So, I offer reasonable flat rates.  I don’t do hourly billing, you do not get any surprise bills in the mail.

If I’m not in the state anymore is that a problem? Nope, no problem at all.  I’ve even done this with clients that are international.  I can send things in the mail and do electronic signatures.  You do not need to appear for your hearing.  You essentially just hire me to handle it and then I take it from there.

 

Feb 10, 2021 FAQ I’ve Been Charged with a Crime, Now What?

I just received a letter in the mail saying I have court, what do I do next? That letter in the mail is likely a summons, or order to appear.  That hearing is likely an arraignment hearing which is a hearing that starts the criminal process going.   One of the first things to do is consider retaining counsel.  Or start thinking of the qualifies that you are looking for in counsel.

It’s important if you do decide to hire counsel to have them at your arraignment hearing because it is an exceptionally important hearing where the judge can determine conditions of release, or the rules that you have to follow while your case is pending or even bail, so having an attorney at your side from that very first hearing is the best way to stay out of custody and stay away from overly restrictive conditions while the case is pending.

If I committed this crime, shouldn’t I just go to court and plead guilty? No.  This is a complex issue and the short answer is that you have the right to have someone by your side advocating for you, looking into your case, making sure that it is fair, making sure that if you do ultimately decide to resolve it by some sort of a plea or offer that it is one that is fair and reasonable to you.

The maximum sentence for most misdemeanors is 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, so it is important that you hire someone that you can go in and advocate on your behalf even if you feel you did it because you still deserve the most fair outcome.

What if I missed my court date or I can’t make the date? It’s important to get in touch with your attorney, if you have retained one, right away.  If you have missed your court date you likely have a  warrant out for your arrest, which is very significant and will get you at the worst time.  One time I had a client get arrested on the way to his wedding.  One time it was on the way home from international travel.

In terms of a warrant, when I am retained I take steps to get that taken care of, whether it is working with a bail bonds person or the court in order to keep you out of custody without that anxiety when the case is pending.  If they sent you a notice to appear and you are on vacation, contact your lawyer right away, and oftentimes we can do a motion and order to set it over a week or so.  The key thing is communication.

 

Dec 10, 2020, Mitigation, Showing the Court the Full Person

Criminal Mitigation is something that you do in almost every case where, in addition to what you typically think of as lawyer work in terms of looking at the statues and making legal arguments you also want to highlight for the prosecutor for the judge for the decision makers who your client is.  Working with an attorney that can really get to know you and help you develop and feel comfortable enough to express your relationships and what your role is in the community.

It’s going to paint a more full picture for someone that is making an impactful decision in your life.  Oftentimes, I will work with my clients and prepare a mitigation package which can include letters, and other supportive materials and also I think it is helpful to highlight to the court the ways that someone has already been punished for this case.  So, if it is something that you have questions about, feel free to give my office a call.

Feb 17, 2022 5 Tips on Negotiating Your Bills Like a Lawyer

So, how can you save money by arguing your bills.  My name is Stefanie Dorn, I’m an attorney out of Washington State, and I’m going to give you some tips on how you can negotiate your bills.  First tip is talk to a person.  When you call, when you have a representative on the phone, you can more clearly explain and persuade.

Second tip, ask if there is the option of a payment plan.  We usually know this tip and that you can ask for that and they will let you pay slow, but my trick is right after you ask that question, say, and what is the discount for payment in full.  Because by setting up that they have the option of a payment plan you’ve set yourself up to present them with a better option, well I can just take care of it upfront but how about thirty percent off the top, and you would be surprised how often, even with bills that aren’t huge huge, companies are willing to take a substantial cut for payment in full.

My next tip is to break down the bill into sections so that you really know what they are charging you for and what you can argue for.  So take some time to really go into and ask them, what do you mean a surcharge, a charge for my service, isn’t that your job? Things along those lines that you are going to be more comfortable with the more familiar you are with all the different charges on there.  My final tip is that it can’t hurt to ask and just ask nicely, and there can be a lot of flexibility.

July 9, 2020 Tips for Zoom Court in Washington State

Zoom Court.  So, you got a notice to appear for court, only instead of it being in a courtroom it is on your computer screen.  Hi I’m attorney Stefanie Dorn I practice in criminal law and also do a lot of expungements.  First of all, most Washington state courts are doing some form of zoom court due to Covid 19.  But, what is being developed is likely going to stick around probably in some way shape and form.  In terms of the advantages it can make it a lot easier to not have to take a day off work and appear electronically.  In terms of the disadvantages, people can sometimes feel like they don’t have the same nature communication with their lawyer and the court.  I think it’s really important to communicate with your lawyer about the hearing and how it is going to go.

I always try and keep a text message chain going with my clients because the zoom platform defaults to automatically messaging everyone, so it is nice to have a second chain of communication.  Generally, you keep your video and audio off until it is your turn or until you are ready to go.  The Court still expects the same type of decorum, no your honor, yes your honor.  You can still do an awkward stranding up when the judge enters the room and all the same rules of court generally apply.  So if you have questions about your upcoming zoom hearing or expungement and criminal defense in Washington State, feel free to give my office a call.

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