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Washington Court Discusses Grounds for Granting a Petition for Personal Restraint

On Behalf of | Aug 2, 2019 | Assault

The Washington Rules of Criminal Procedure provide many rights and protection to criminal defendants that extend from the time of their arrest through trial. Additionally, even if a person is convicted of a crime and sentenced to imprisonment, he or she may be able to obtain relief via a personal restraint petition. Recently, a Washington appellate court discussed the grounds for granting a personal restraint petition, in a case in which the defendant was sentenced to 198 months’ imprisonment following a first degree assault conviction. If you are a Washington resident facing assault charges it is critical to meet with a knowledgeable Washington assault defense attorney regarding your rights and what defenses you may be able to argue to avoid a conviction.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of first-degree assault with a deadly weapon. He was sentenced to a mid-range prison term, with a 48-month deadly weapon enhancement. He filed a personal restraint petition, which was successful. His revised offender score was 4 and his revised sentence range was 129 to 171 months. The defendant requested that he receive a sentence at the low end of the range, and that his sentence run concurrently with a sentence in another case. He did not request an exceptional sentence, however.  He was resentenced to 150 months, with the 48-month weapon enhancement. Subsequently, the defendant filed a second personal restraint petition.

Standard for Granting a Personal Restraint Petition

Under Washington law, granting a defendant’s personal restraint petition constitutes extraordinary relief. Thus, a personal restraint petition will only be granted in cases where the defendant meets a high standard. In cases in which the defendant alleges a constitutional error was committed, he or she must show that the error caused actual and substantial prejudice. In cases where the defendant claims a non-constitutional error was committed, however, he or she must prove the error caused a fundamental defect that inherently caused a total miscarriage of justice. In all cases, the defendant must prove that an error was committed by a preponderance of the evidence.

Here, the defendant argued that a case (the “Opinion”) establishing that deadly weapon enhancements must run consecutive to a defendant’s base sentence is harmful and wrong and that the legal basis for the ruling had changed. Further, he stated that the Opinion was inconsistent with the Washington Sentencing Reform Act. As such, the defendant argued he should be resentenced.

The court was not convinced by the defendant’s arguments, finding they failed for two reasons. First, the court noted that it could not overturn or ignore the Opinion, as it was decided by the Washington Supreme Court. Further, the court stated that the defendant did not make a request for an exceptional sentence downward during his resentencing hearing. The court held that while resentencing is proper where the trial court categorically refused to impose an exceptional sentence, it could not conclude that the trial court refused to grant a request for an exceptional sentence when no request had been made. As such, the court found that the defendant did not offer sufficient grounds for relief from restraint and denied his petition.

Meet with an Experienced Washington Assault Defense Attorney to Discuss Your Case

Under Washington law, even if you are convicted of assault, it does not mean that you cannot seek recourse for your sentence. If you live in Washington and are faced with an assault charge it is crucial to engage an experienced Washington assault defense attorney to help you protect your rights. The seasoned assault defense attorneys of the Law Offices of Smith & White will provide you with a zealous defense to help you strive to protect your liberties. You can reach us through our online form or at 253-363-8662 to set up a confidential and free meeting to discuss your case.