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Felony Sentencing in Washington

Metro Law Firm Feb. 6, 2024

The uncertainty of what lies ahead after facing a felony charge can be a source of great stress. I understand this because I've walked with many clients through this challenging journey. The legal difficulty, coupled with the potential for severe consequences, makes it critical to secure experienced, knowledgeable representation. 

As a criminal defense attorney at Metro Law Firm, I have dedicated my career to serving individuals throughout Kennewick, Pasco, Richland (tri-cities), Benton-Franklin County, Yakima County, Walla Walla County, and Seattle. With over 25 years of experience, I, Gary Metro, have navigated the intricacies of Washington's felony sentencing structure, seeking favorable outcomes for many clients facing felony charges. 

Understanding Felony Sentencing in Washington

Washington State classifies felonies into three categories: Class A, Class B, and Class C. The severity of the crime dictates the category, which in turn, determines the maximum penalties that can be imposed. It's crucial to understand these classifications and their implications as they directly impact your case. 

Here's an overview of each classification: 

  • Class A Felonies: These are the most serious crimes in Washington, including first- and second-degree murder, most forms of rape, homicide resulting from child abuse, and assault with a deadly weapon. The maximum penalty for Class A felonies is life in prison and/or a $50,000 fine, except for aggravated first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without parole. 

  • Class B Felonies: Crimes like second-degree manslaughter, auto theft, possession of a stolen gun, residential burglary, and stalking in violation of a restraining order fall under this category. Class B felonies can result in a prison term of up to 10 years and/or a fine of up to $20,000. 

  • Class C Felonies: These include electronic data theft, theft of property worth between $750 and $1,500, third-degree assault, and fourth-degree assault with a history of domestic violence crimes. Class C felonies are punishable by up to five years in jail and/or a fine of up to $10,000. 

Statute of Limitations

Washington has a statute of limitations for prosecuting defendants. This sets a deadline for initiating criminal charges, varying depending on the severity of the crime. For some crimes, such as murder, there is no time limit on when charges can be filed. The shortest criminal statute of limitations for felonies is three years. 

Consequences of a Felony Conviction

A felony conviction can cast a long shadow over your life. The repercussions extend far beyond the immediate penalties of jail time and fines.  

Here are some of the potential long-term implications of a felony conviction: 

  • Employment Challenges: Many employers conduct background checks and may be hesitant to hire someone with a felony conviction. Certain fields, such as law enforcement, education, and healthcare, often have stringent rules about hiring individuals with criminal records. 

  • Difficulty Obtaining Professional Licenses: A felony conviction can also hinder your ability to obtain professional licenses. Many licensing boards consider criminal history during the review process, and a felony conviction could lead to denial. 

  • Housing Issues: Landlords often run background checks on potential tenants. A felony conviction can make it more challenging to secure housing, as some landlords may not want to rent to someone with a felony record. 

  • Loss of Rights: Depending on the nature of your conviction, you may lose certain civil rights, such as the right to vote, serve on a jury, or own a firearm. 

  • Impact on Family Life: In some cases, a felony conviction can affect child custody arrangements. Courts always prioritize the best interests of the child, and a felony conviction might be seen as a negative factor in determining custody. 

Possible Defenses

When you're facing felony charges, it's important to remember that there are many potential defenses available. The right strategy depends on the specifics of your case. Here are some possible defenses that could be used in your case: 

  • Self-defense: Asserting that any actions taken were necessary to protect yourself from immediate harm. 

  • Lack of intent: Arguing that you did not intend to commit the crime. 

  • Insanity defense: Claiming that you were legally insane at the time of the crime. 

  • Alibi: Providing evidence that you were elsewhere at the time the crime was committed. 

  • Mistaken identity: Arguing that authorities have identified the wrong person. 

  • Entrapment: Asserting that law enforcement induced you to commit a crime you would not have otherwise committed. 

  • Duress: Claiming that you were forced or coerced into committing the crime. 

  • Necessity: Arguing that you had no choice but to commit the crime in order to prevent a greater harm. 

  • Consent: Asserting that the alleged victim gave consent. 

  • Statute of limitations: Arguing that too much time has passed for the prosecution to bring charges. 

  • Illegal search and seizure: Claiming that the evidence was obtained illegally. 

  • Violation of Miranda rights: Asserting that your rights were violated during police questioning. 

  • Ineffective assistance of counsel: Arguing that your previous attorney did not adequately represent you. 

  • Suppression of evidence: Requesting that certain evidence be excluded because it was improperly obtained. 

  • Lack of probable cause: Arguing that law enforcement did not have sufficient reason to arrest you. 

  • Mistrial: Requesting a new trial due to serious errors that affected the outcome of the first trial. 

  • Double jeopardy: Asserting that you cannot be tried again for the same crime if you were already acquitted. 

  • Constitutional violations: Claiming that your constitutional rights were violated at some point in the legal process. 

  • Police misconduct: Arguing that police acted improperly during the investigation or arrest. 

  • Witness credibility issues: Challenging the reliability of witness testimony. 

  • Lack of evidence: Asserting that the prosecution does not have enough evidence to prove their case. 

  • Failure to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt: Arguing that the prosecution has not met their burden of proof. 

These are just some of the many potential defenses that could be used in your case.  

Strong Legal Representation

Remember, being charged with a felony does not equate to a conviction. With the right legal representation, it's possible to conquer the Washington legal system and work towards a favorable outcome. If you're facing felony charges, don't go it alone. Allow my team at Metro Law Firm to stand with you, advocate for your rights, and fight for the best possible outcome. Located in Tri-Cities, Washington, and serving clients throughout the state, I am here to help. Reach out today and let me be your guiding light in these challenging times.