How to Get a Refund of Costs You Paid on Your Vacated Drug Possession Conviction

You must first have a vacate order before you can be refunded any costs.  If you don’t yet have a vacate order, here’s how to start the vacate process.

 

There Are Three Kinds of Refunds.

Legal Financial Obligation (LFO) Refunds

LFO Payments are fines and fees a court ordered you to pay because of your drug possession conviction, and you paid those fines and fees to a superior court Clerk’s Office or to a court of limited jurisdiction (such as a district court or municipal court).

This means your LFO payments were tracked by a superior court clerk’s office or the administrator of a court of limited jurisdiction. The clerk or administrator will therefore be able to calculate what your LFO refund is, including any interest you paid on the principle of your LFO or any collection fees you paid to the clerk or administrator.

The State of Washington’s Refund Bureau can refund you the money you paid on your felony or misdemeanor drug possession conviction when a court orders it to do so. The Refund Bureau is run by the Administrative Office of the Courts, a separate state agency from us. 

Third-Party Payment Refunds

You may have paid costs because of your conviction that were not court ordered, or were not paid to a clerk or administrator’s office. You might have also “paid” a court-ordered fine with your time. These kinds of payments are known as Third-Party Payments.

 These kind of payments are not tracked by a court clerk or court administrator. These kinds of payments will not be calculated by a clerk/administrator in your LFO Refund amount.

Cost of Supervision Refunds

If you were on community custody as a result of your conviction, you will be refunded the cost of supervision fee that you paid to the Department of Corrections. This was either a flat flee per conviction or a monthly fee, depending on when you were convicted.

COS refunds are done per person, not per conviction. If you have multiple convictions that are eligible for this refund, DOC will hold your refund until all eligible convictions have been vacated.

The Department of Corrections is refunding these payments in the order that the convictions were vacated. You can check their progress on the DOC Blake Refund Website.

 

You Must Follow a Separate Process to Request These Three Kinds of Refunds. 


How to Get Your LFO Refund

Getting your LFO Refund Is a Three Step Process

First, you must get a vacate order from a judge. If you don’t yet have a vacate order, here’s how to start the vacate process. Your vacate order may include the amount of your LFO refund, or the amount may be calculated by the clerk/administrator of the court after the judge signs the order. You do not need to present any evidence of what you paid in order to get your LFO Refund. This amount will be calculated by the clerk/administrator of the court.

Second, the clerk/administrator of the court must give your vacate and LFO Refund information to the Refund Bureau.

Third, once the Refund Bureau has your information in its system, you must apply for your LFO Refund through the Refund Bureau.

Once the Refund Bureau has received and verified your application, they will mail a check issued in your name as it appears in the court records, to the address you provide in the application from step three above.

You must repeat this process for every case number you have for a drug possession conviction.

How to Get Your Third-Party Payment Refund

Once you have a vacate order, you must then make a special, separate request to the court that issued your conviction to get your Third-Party Payment Refund. (You can make this special, separate request at the same time you request a vacate order, but you will need to ask the judge for two orders: one ordering the vacate and refund of LFO payments, and one ordering the third-party payment refund).

You can make this special request by bringing a motion with evidence supporting your request. If you want to make this kind of request, it would be a good idea to seek the help of a lawyer. Most public defenders cannot help you with this motion. If you cannot afford a lawyer, the following civil legal aid organizations may be able to help you with your Third-Party Payment Refund Motion.

You can also try bringing the motion by yourself. You should ask for any/all Third-Party Payments you made because of the vacated conviction in your motion. You will need to properly file the motion with the clerk or administrator, set the motion for a hearing, properly serve the motion and notice of hearing on the prosecutor, and go to court on your hearing date to present your motion and evidence to a judge. The prosecutor may oppose your motion. Here is an example of a motion and proposed order.

If a judge grants your motion for a Third-Party Payment Refund, this means the court will sign an order telling the Refund Bureau to refund you your Third-Party Payment.

  • If you are able to get an order like this, you do not need to apply for the refund with the Refund Bureau. Instead, the order the judge signs should include your mailing address.
  • The clerk or court administrator should then let the Refund Bureau know about the order. The Refund Bureau will issue your Third-Party Payment Refund to the mailing address provided in the order.
  • Here are the directions the Refund Bureau has provided about this process. You should attach this document to your motion.

The Refund Bureau is not yet issuing checks for third-party payment refunds ordered by a court. It currently anticipates it will be able to begin issuing checks for third-party payment refunds in late April 2024.

How to Get Your Cost of Supervision Refund

Cost of supervision refunds are automatic and are refunded in the order that the vacate order for your conviction was received by the Department of Corrections.

If you are incarcerated in a DOC facility: Your refund will be automatically applied to your trust accounting system account. It will be subject to DOC deductions.

If you are on active supervision: the COS Unit will contact the assigned Community Corrections Officer (CCO) to confirm the address in DOC's electronic file is valid for mailing. Once confirmed, your refund check will be mailed to you.

If you are not under DOC supervision

  • A notification letter will be sent to the address DOC has on file for you. You must fill out and return the address verification form included with the letter.
  • If your address can not be found, or you do not submit the address verification form, your refund will be sent to unclaimed property. You can search for your refund here.
  • If you want to verify your address in advance, you can complete the address verification form found here and return it via one of these three methods:
    • Mail – Send to the following mailing address:
      Department of Corrections
      Attn: CCD LFO/COS Unit
      PO Box 41126
      Olympia, WA 98504-1126
    • Email – DOCBlakeCOS@doc1.wa.gov
    • Drop off – At any WA State DOC Office (for forwarding to our unit)

 

Frequently Asked Questions About Blake Refunds (FAQs)

Can I mail in an application to the Refund Bureau, or do I have to apply online? 

You can complete a paper application for your refund and send it to the Refund Bureau. Here is where you can find the mail-in application on the Refund Bureau’s website, and here are the instructions for completing the paper mail-in application.

There are advantages to creating an on-line account with the Refund Bureau and applying online. For example, the Refund Bureau says it may process your refund more quickly if you apply online. Additionally, if you create an online account, you can save any documentation you use to apply, such as your photo ID, for use in additional applications for refunds in different cases. It is also easier and faster for the Refund Bureau to communicate with you via email.

What if I have more than one refund due to me under different case numbers? Do I have to submit separate applications for those different case numbers?

If you apply on-line, you must complete a separate application for every case number under which you may be getting a refund.  However, if you apply online, the system will save your information in the account you create, making each additional application easier to fill out. 

If you apply by mail, you do not need to fill out a separate application for each case number. You can submit one application listing all the case numbers for which you have a vacate order. 

What if I paid fines or fees on a conviction dismissed through a successful diversion or deferral?

The Refund Bureau is authorized to pay document-verified costs paid to third parties previously paid by defendants whose convictions have been vacated by court order due to the State v. Blake ruling. If you paid fines or fees on a charge that resulted in a non-conviction, please contact an attorney.

What if I receive benefits from the Social Security Administration?

Your benefits may be impacted by your refund. Please read this information on Blake Refund Check and Social Security Benefits from Civil Survival.

Can currently incarcerated people receive refunds? 

LFO Refunds: The Department of Corrections and the Refund Bureau have worked together to distribute paper applications in all DOC facilities in Washington. Once applications have been filled out, they can be notarized by notaries provided by DOC, and then mailed to the Refund Bureau in the provided pre-addressed and stamped envelopes. 

Refund checks can be deposited in Trust Accounting System accounts, where they will be subject to DOC deductions. Checks can also be sent to friends or family members, who can hold on to the check for up to six months (when it will expire) or get Power of Attorney so they can cash the check.

Third Party Refunds: Please contact OPD at 1-800-414-6064 ext. 214 or blake@opd.wa.gov for details about third party refunds if you are currently incarcerated.

COS Refunds: COS refunds will be automatically deposited in Trust Accounting System accounts, where they will be subject to DOC deductions.

See our Blake for People in a Washington State DOC Facility page for more info.

I'm having trouble filling out the refund application, or I have questions about the status of my application, or questions about when my refund check will be issued. Who should I contact?

You should contact the Refund Bureau at (360) 704-1913. 

Is the Refund Bureau issuing refund checks yet? How long does it take to get my check?

Yes. The Refund Bureau began issuing refund checks for approved applications in October 2023. It takes about 6 weeks on average to get your check from the time you submit your online application to the Refund Bureau. 

If you submitted a paper mail-in application the estimated time on average to get your check is about 4 months. 

However, the Refund Bureau is only issuing checks for LFO Refunds. The Refund Bureau is not yet issuing checks for third-party payment refunds ordered by a court. It currently anticipates it will be able to begin issuing checks for third-party payment refunds in late April 2024.

I know I have a vacate order and a refund coming but I can't find my case on the Refund Bureau's website. Why, and what should I do?

There may be a delay between the time your vacate order is signed by a judge, and the time when the clerk or administrator gives your vacate and LFO Refund information to the Refund Bureau. If it has been more than three weeks since your order was entered and you still cannot find your case in the Refund Bureau system, call the clerk or administrator in the jurisdiction that issued your vacate order and ask when they will give your vacate and LFO information to the Refund Bureau. 

Can I apply for a refund on someone else's behalf?

If you have a deceased relative who is eligible for a Blake refund, you may be able to claim their refund. You will need to hire an attorney and get a judge to sign off on this.

You may not apply for a refund on behalf of any living person.