County Council approves funding to help individuals clean criminal records

Thursday, September 27, 2018

A criminal record is major barrier for those looking to improve their lives. It can close doors if you’re looking for housing, employment or any activity that requires a background check.

State law provides opportunities for those with non-violent offenses to clear their criminal records, but for many the cost of going to court puts this option out of the reach.

The Metropolitan King County Council is now providing an opportunity for those who want to clear their records, but can’t afford the legal representation needed for the process. The council approved legislation that will provide assistance for indigent individuals to clear their records through the Department of Public Defense.

“This legislation is both a social justice and economic tool that removes a barrier preventing far too many people from improving their lives,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett, the prime sponsor of the legislation.

State law provides the opportunity for people convicted of specific misdemeanors and felonies to go to court to have their convictions vacated and their criminal records cleared. The biggest challenge for many people seeking to have this done is the cost involved.

“Lack of finances should not determine who in our community is able to access this resource,” said Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “This is one step that we can take to ensure all residents of King County have the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

The legislation, adopted at the council’s Sept. 24 meeting, calls for Public Defense to begin offering these services to their clients starting in 2019.


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