As a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Vancouver, WA, I often get asked about felony sentencing. Felony Sentencing under Washington State law can be a complicated proposition. This article is meant to give a general overview of Felony sentencing in Washington. For a more detailed analysis, please contact the Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S. and schedule a consultation.
Felony Sentencing Determination
Felony sentencing in Washington State begins with a determination of whether an offense you are facing is a ranked or unranked felony offense. If you are facing an unranked felony offense, then your standard sentencing range is 0-365 days, regardless of your criminal history. What this means from a practical perspective is that the court can sentence you anywhere within the range of no time to up to 365 days in jail. If you are facing a ranked felony offense, then generally your standard sentencing range is based on the seriousness level of the offense and the number of felony points you have. Now let’s explore that in more detail.
Ranked Felony Offense
Ranked felony offenses by law have a seriousness level assigned to them that can range from Level 1 (lowest level) to Level 16 (highest level). For a Level 1 offense, for someone with an offender score of zero, their standard range is 0-2 months, if convicted of the offense. By comparison, a Level 7 felony offense for someone with an offender score of zero, if convicted, is facing a standard sentencing range of 15-20 months. Drug offenses are ranked but have their own separate standard ranges. The maximum sentence a person can have adjudicated against them is the maximum amount of time the crime carries.
Standard Felony Sentencing Ranges
Now the standard ranges a person is facing increases if the person has either prior felony points in their past that have not washed out, or they have current offenses (felonies and certain misdemeanors) they are convicted of in the same case. Moreover, certain offenses can count as multipliers, meaning they can count for more than one felony point in their criminal scoring. For example, if someone has prior taking motor vehicle without permissions in their criminal history and they are convicted of a current taking a motor vehicle without permission, then that prior conviction will count as two points instead of one, and as a result, will up their standard sentencing range one level higher.
Multiple current offenses are presumed under Washington law to run concurrently, meaning to run together. However, the court has the authority to run those sentences consecutive, meaning running separately.
Below The Standard Felony Sentencing Range
Under Washington law, a court can sentence someone above or below the standard sentencing range in limited circumstances. What this means is that in limited circumstances, it is possible to sentence someone to either less time than what the law says is appropriate for someone in the standard range or the court can sentence someone to more time than is allowed in the standard range up to the maximum possible sentence. Sentencing above or below the standard range is the exception and not the rule, particularly in the instance of sentencing someone below the standard range.
To sentence someone below the standard sentencing range, the court has to find a mitigating circumstance under the law. RCW 9.94A.535(1) and case law provides a non-exclusive list of reasons a court can sentence below the standard sentencing range. These examples can include, but are not limited to the age of the offender, the victim was an initiator, before detection. The defendant compensated or tried to compensate the victim, the defendant was induced by others to participate in the offense; the defendant’s capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct was impaired (excludes voluntary use of drugs or alcohol) and other reasons.
Above The Standard Felony Sentencing Range
A Washington court can order a sentence above the standard range under the law, when the offender has prior unscored misdemeanor or foreign criminal history that results in a presumptively too lenient sentence; the defendant has committed multiple current offenses and the defendant’s high offender score results in a sentence where some of the current offenses will go unpunished; the defendant has an offender score of more than nine points; the defendant’s conduct during the crime exhibited deliberate cruelty to the victim, and other reasons as well.
Washington law also includes the possibility for additional time to be added onto a sentence for felony offenses when firearms or deadly weapons are used in the commission of a crime.
Finally, certain alternative sentencing programs can reduce sentences for convicted felons, such as Drug Court, Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative, Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative, Parenting Offender Sentencing Alternative, and Diversion program. It’s important to consult with a criminal defense lawyer when facing a felony charge. Contact us with any questions or for a free consultation.
Nicholas “Nick” Wood – Law Office of Nicholas Wood P.S.
Nick Wood received his J.D. in 1999 from Lewis and Clark’s Northwestern School of Law in Portland Oregon. The Law Office of Nicholas Wood, P.S. has represented clients for various criminal defense matters since 2006.