Sentencing Reform on the Horizon in Washington State

Washington’s criminal sentencing laws have remained the same since 1981.  However, it appears that may change in the foreseeable future.  Yes, the Sentencing Reform Act of 1981 with the assistance of the Council of State Governments Justice Sentence could look vastly different in a couple of years.  The Sentencing Guidelines Commission recently adopted a report urging lawmakers to consider two new approaches to imposing sentences in the state.  The commission consists of judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys.  It seems two options are being considered.  The first option seeks to retain the sentencing grid currently in use but sentencing ranges within the grid would be expanded.  The goal being greater discretion in sentencing low-level felonies.  The second option seems to be an even greater overhaul of the sentencing grid by establishing broad sentencing ranges for felony crimes and within those ranges a second set of advised presumptive ranges.  Both options aim to give the courts more discretion in handing down case-by-case, individualized sentences.  According to the attached article, the report also recommends assigning serious levels to “unranked” felonies; increasing the use of pre-sentencing reports; broader discretion in the use of sentencing enhancements; and revamping Washington’s community supervision program (read: probation).  In addition to simplifying sentencing other goals of the commission include increasing public safety, reducing the rate of recidivism for repeat offenders and evidence based sentencing.   

For additional details read in the article, please click the following link: