Brooke Howell couldn’t get certified as a nursing assistant because she’s in a Washington state child neglect database, based on a 2012 arrest for driving drunk with her children in the car.

Howell asked the Department of Social and Health Services to expunge her record in 2017, saying she’d completed an alcohol diversion program, stopped drinking, and wasn’t convicted of a crime related to her arrest. The DSHS didn’t respond, so she filed a lawsuit in state court, claiming the...