Sentences for criminal offenses in Washington are often severe as punishment serves four critical goals: deterrence, incapacitation, retribution, and rehabilitation. Regarding the majority of crimes, state laws allow judges to use discretion when determining a sentence, in addition to providing them guidelines to follow. However, with certain crimes, federal mandatory minimum sentencing laws require mandatory minimums to be imposed.
How Will I be Sentenced for a Crime in Washington?
Contrary to popular belief, a sentence is not revealed at trial but during a sentence hearing. Judges take a few weeks to consider all the factors of the case, as well as the offender’s criminal past, to construct a sentence that he or she considers reasonable for the crime committed. Several things are considered that can impact the type and duration of punishment, including the severity of the crime and whether or not any mitigating or aggravating factors were present.
When a crime carries a mandatory minimum sentence, however, a judge is not able to craft a sentence suitable for the offender. In these cases, even a nonviolent offense can result in a mandatory period of incarceration and heavy fines. For example, getting caught possessing just one gram of LSD can lead to at least 5 years in prison regardless of other factors if you are convicted. A competent criminal defense attorney in Washington is the key to reducing the chances of such a conviction.
Why are there Mandatory Minimum Sentences?
The existence of mandatory minimum sentences is a highly controversial subject. People generally fall into two different camps: those who believe that harsh sentences will deter more criminals from committing the crimes associated with mandatory minimums (drug, weapons, and sex offenses), as well as ensure the relative uniformity of sentences for these crimes; and those who recognize how mandatory minimums wrongly punish nonviolent offenders and restrict judges’ abilities for discretion.
Specific drug crimes, sex crimes, and violent crimes carry mandatory minimum sentences in Washington. The state of Washington also observes the Three Strikes Law, which requires that a repeat offender face life without parole after three strikes.
If you have been arrested for drug crimes, sex crimes, or assault in Washington, speak with an attorney about your case as soon as possible. Daniel J. Murphy Jr. of Murphy’s Law Offices proudly defends those accused of criminal offenses throughout Washington State. Call (253) 312-6122 for a free legal consultation.