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Washington Court Analyzes What Constitutes a Sentencing Hearing

On Behalf of | Jun 6, 2019 | Firearms

Criminal defendants are afforded numerous rights and protections that continue even after a conviction. For example, a defendant has a right to be present and allocute at any sentencing or resentencing hearing. A Washington Appellate court recently discussed what falls under the statutory parameters of a sentencing hearing in a case in which the State filed a motion to amend a sentence to correct a facial invalidity pertaining to firearm enhancements. If you live in Washington and are currently charged with a crime involving the use of a firearm it is essential to retain a skilled Washington weapons charge defense attorney to aid you in formulating a strong defense.

Factual Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of second-degree and first-degree kidnapping, second-degree assault, and harassment. Firearm enhancements were imposed for each count, with the exception of the harassment charge. A sentencing hearing was held, during which the court sentenced the defendant to consecutive sentences for each crime. At the hearing, the State requested that the firearm enhancements run concurrently. Thus, the court included a handwritten note regarding the firearm enhancements. The court failed to identify the total number of months of confinement, however.

It is reported that subsequently, the Department of Corrections sought assistance to construe the sentence. The State then filed a motion asking the State to amend and correct the sentence due to the fact that it was facially invalid. The defendant opposed the motion, arguing he was entitled to a full resentencing hearing. He was not permitted to speak at the hearing on the motion, where the court signed the amended judgment and sentence. The defendant appealed.

What Constitutes a Sentencing Hearing Under Washington Law

In Washington, a defendant has a statutory right to allocution during a sentencing hearing. A defendant’s right to present arguments is limited to sentencing hearings. In the subject case, the court noted that the phrase “sentencing hearing” was not specifically defined. The court stated, however, that the Sentencing Reform Act provides that a sentencing hearing is a hearing conducting before imposing a sentence on a defendant, and at the time of the hearing the court must consider reports, impact statements, and arguments from the State, the defendant, and any victims regarding the proposed sentence.

Thus, the court stated that a sentencing hearing was not broadly defined as any hearing that related to a sentence but was limited to a hearing in which the court sought information to be considered in imposing a sentence and actually imposed a sentence. In the subject case, the court rejected the defendant’s argument that the hearing on the State’s motion to correct and amend the sentence was a sentencing hearing. As such, the court found that the defendant did not have a right to set forth arguments in his favor.

Consult an Experienced Washington Weapons Charges Defense Attorney

If you are charged with a crime with a firearm enhancement it is critical to consult an experienced Washington weapons charges defense attorney to discuss your case and what defenses you may be able to set forth. At the Law Offices of Smith & White, our seasoned weapons charge defense attorneys will provide you with aggressive advocacy to help you seek the best legal result possible under the facts of your case. We can be reached through the online form or at 253-363-8662 to plan a free and confidential meeting to discuss the charges you face.