Criminal Sentencing in Washington
Any crime in Washington can lead to severe penalties such as fines, probation, jail time and even suspension of your driver's license. The exact penalties that are placed on an individual who is convicted of a crime vary depending on many factors. This is known as their sentence. The law provides guidelines for judges to use to determine the sentence, but there is no way to know for sure what penalties you face until your sentencing hearing.
When a person pleads guilty to a charge or is found guilty in court, the next step is sentencing. A sentencing hearing is usually scheduled a few weeks after a conviction in order for the judge to have time to review all pertinent information. The judge will take into consideration many factors when sentencing including your criminal history, the severity of your crime, victim statements and even social factors such as your employment history and standing in the community. In some situations, there are mandatory minimums to the amount of jail time that must been sentenced. For example, selling drugs in a school zone will result in a mandatory minimum of 2 years of incarceration.
It is best to speak with an attorney when facing any criminal charge to make sure you understand the sentencing laws of a conviction. If you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Seattle, call The Law Offices of Steve Karimi right now to find out more about what kind of penalties you can expect.
Seattle Maximum Criminal Penalties
Washington law classifies most criminal offenses under 3 categories depending on the severity of each. These are as follows:
- Misdemeanors: These are the most minor offenses such as petty theft and disorderly conduct.
- Gross Misdemeanors: These crimes are more serious than misdemeanors, but not severe enough to be classified as felonies. Gross misdemeanors include DUI, reckless driving and more.
- Felonies: These are the most serious crimes. Felonies are further divided into three classes, A, B and C; with A being the worst crimes deserving the steepest penalties.
Each of these classifications carry a maximum sentence. This refers to the most jail time and steepest fines that a judge can grant if you are convicted or plead guilty to a crime of that class. The maximums include:
- Misdemeanors: Punishable by not more than 90 days in jail and fines of $1,000.
- Gross Misdemeanors: Punishable by more than 90 days and less than 1 year in jail and fines up to $5,000.
- Class C Felonies: Punishable by up to 5 years in prison and $10,000 in fines.
- Class B Felonies: Punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $20,000 in fines.
- Class A Felonies: Punishable by up to life imprisonment and $50,000 in fines.
Washington State Sentencing Grid
One question that people accused of a crime often ask is if they will have to go to jail and, if so, for how long. This is a difficult question to answer because, if they are able to successfully fight the charges, the answer will be no time at all. However, a conviction or a guilty plea can result in a significant jail sentence if the judge feels that it is necessary. In order to decide how much jail time a person convicted of a crime should be granted, judges in the state use a sentencing grid. RCW 9.94A.510 shows this grid in its entirety. Every offender is given points based on the factors of the case. These points correspond with a jail sentence in months depending on the type of crime the conviction is for and how many prior convictions are on their record.
For example, the grid pertaining to first time offenders only appears below:
|Months of Incarceration
|Life sentence without parole/death penalty
The seriousness level of an offense is listed in RCW 9.94A.515. Examples of crimes assigned to each level are as follows:
- XVI Aggravated Murder 1
- XV Homicide by abuse
- XIV Murder 2
- XIII Malicious explosion 2
- XII Assault 1
- XI Manslaughter 1
- X Child Molestation 1
- IX Hit and Run--Death
- VIII Arson 1
- VII Burglary 1
- VI Bribery
- V Domestic Violence Court Order Violation
- IV Assault 2
- III Animal Cruelty 1
- II Malicious Mischief 1
- I Attempting to Elude a Pursuing Police Vehicle
Call a Seattle Defense Attorney Today
Any criminal conviction can result in a jail sentence and the judge's decision regarding your sentencing is entirely out of your control unless you hire an experienced defense attorney. Defense lawyer Steve Karimi knows how to get the best results for his clients. Whether it is working with the prosecution to get your charges reduced or dismissed, getting you a plea bargain or fighting for a not guilty verdict, he will stop at nothing for you. Attorney Karimi is a former prosecutor so he understands how the other side works and will use this information to your advantage. Call our office now to set up a free consultation to find out more about the penalties you face.