The state legislature, where lawmakers are close to passing bi-partisan criminal justice reform.
The state Legislature, where lawmakers are close to passing bi-partisan criminal justice reform. Lester Black
It looks like it’s about to get a lot easier for people to clear their old felonies off their record and move on with their life. A bill moving through the state Legislature that would shorten the time it takes to clear old felonies and expand the number of felonies a person can expunge from their record passed the Senate and House. It is now one minor vote away from being sent to the governor’s desk.

House Bill 1041 passed the House in March and passed the Senate last week. The Senate added a few amendments to their version of the law so the House now needs to make a “concurrence vote” before the bill can move on to Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature. Rep. Drew Hansen, a Democrat from Bainbridge Island who sponsored the legislation, told me he expects the House will sign off on the Senate’s amendments and that he expects Inslee will sign the law.

“I am sure he is going to sign it. I cannot imagine with such a broad coalition behind this bill—Republicans, Democrats, prosecutors, people who have spent time in prison, and more—that he would do anything other than sign it when it gets to his desk,” Hansen told me Monday.

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Hansen said the Senate amendments were simple clarifying amendments to legal language and did not substantially change the bill.

Felonies haunt people for the rest of their life, creating roadblocks to finding employment, housing, and participating in aspects of society that most of us take for granted, like being able to volunteer at a child’s school. Those effects can last long after a person has repaid their debts to society, so this bill would speed up the process for someone trying to clear their old felonies from their record.

This bill would not automatically expunge or vacate any records, people would still need to get approval from a judge to have their record cleared, but the proposed law will expand the types of felonies that can be cleared. Read my last story on this proposed law, which Hansen is calling the “New Hope Act,” to find out more about how this bill changes the criminal vacation process.