Sleater appeals from an order denying her motion to vacate
her 2006 conviction for possession of methamphetamine,
arguing that a subsequent conviction occurring after the
certificate of discharge issued for an offense committed
prior to that date was not a "new crime" preventing
vacation of the offense. We disagree with the focus of her
argument and affirm the trial court.
Sleater pleaded guilty on February 8, 2006, to possession of
methamphetamine and complied with all the terms of the
judgment and sentence. A certificate of discharge issued on
May 22, 2008. However, one week before the certificate
issued, she had been arrested for possessing methamphetamine
with the intent to deliver.
promptly pleaded guilty on May 29, 2008, to one count of
unlawful possession of methamphetamine with the intent to
manufacture or deliver and was sentenced to 22 months in
prison. On October 3, 2016, Ms. Sleater moved to vacate the
2006 conviction, declaring that she did "not have a
conviction for any new crime in any jurisdiction since
discharge." Clerk's Papers at 16. The State
responded that the 2008 conviction prevented vacation of the
trial court heard argument on the motion and agreed with the
State's interpretation of the statute. Ms. Sleater timely
appealed to this court. A panel considered the matter without
sole issue presented is whether the 2008 offense prevented
the vacation of the 2006 conviction. Ms. Sleater wrongly
focuses on the timing of her 2008 arrest rather than the date
of conviction for that offense.
case presents an issue of statutory interpretation, so the
basic rules of statutory construction govern this claim.
Questions of statutory interpretation are reviewed de novo.
State v. Bradshaw, 152 Wn.2d 528, 531, 98 P.3d 1190
(2004). A court begins by looking at the plain meaning of the
rule as expressed through the words themselves. Tesoro
Ref. & Mktg. Co. v. Dep't of Revenue, 164 Wn.2d
310, 317, 190 P.3d 28 (2008). If the meaning is plain on its
face, the court applies the plain meaning. State v.
Armendariz, 160 Wn.2d 106, 110, 156 P.3d 201 (2007).
Only if the language is ambiguous does the court look to aids
of construction. Id. at 110-11. A provision is
ambiguous if it is reasonably subject to multiple
interpretations. State v. Engel, 166 Wn.2d.572, 579,
210 P.3d 1007 (2009); State v. McGee, 122 Wn.2d 783,
787, 864 P.2d 912 (1993).
rule of lenity can be applied to ambiguous criminal statutes.
If a statute is truly ambiguous, the rule of lenity requires
that "the court must adopt the interpretation most
favorable to the criminal defendant." McGee,
122 Wn.2d at 787.
of a felony conviction in Washington is a two-step process
under the Sentencing Reform Act of 1981, chapter 9.94A RCW.
When a convicted offender completes the requirements of his
judgment and sentence, a certificate of discharge will enter
and restore many civil rights. RCW 9.94A.637. After the
receipt of the certificate of discharge and the passage of
the requisite amount of time,  the offender can seek vacation of
the conviction pursuant to RCW 9.94A.640.
issue here is the meaning of one of the vacation policy's
exceptions found in RCW 9.94A.640(2). The relevant provision
(2) An offender may not have the record of conviction cleared
if: . . . (d) the offender has been convicted of a new
crime in this state, another state, or federal court
since the date of the ...