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.
You must first have a vacate order before you can apply for a refund from the Refund Bureau. If you don’t yet have a vacate order, here’s how to start the vacate process.
There Are Two 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
- 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.
- The Refund Bureau may refund “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.” ESSB 5187, Sec. 114(10) (pp.8-9). Some examples of these kinds of payments might be but are not limited to: electronic home monitoring fees, jail or community service in lieu of fines, attorney fees, treatment fees, etc. 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.
You Must Follow a Separate Process to Request These Two 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 the 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.
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?
Yes. 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.
- 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.
- What if I paid cost of supervision (COS) fees to DOC while on community custody for a PCS conviction?
These fees will not be refunded through the AOC Refund Bureau. Instead, DOC’s Cost of Supervision Unit will conduct a review of COS fee payment history for all individuals who paid them if DOC receives a copy of your vacate order and it has your most current mailing address. For more information on DOC's COS refund process, and directions to make sure DOC has your most current mailing address, please visit their webpages:
- 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?
Yes. The Refund Bureau began issuing refund checks for approved applications in October 2023. 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 January or early February 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.