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Washington Court Discusses Out of State Convictions in Calculating Offender Scores

On Behalf of | Oct 8, 2019 | Domestic Violence

In Washington, if a defendant is convicted of a crime of domestic violence, the court may consider numerous factors when sentencing the defendant. For example, if the defendant has prior convictions, those convictions are used to calculate a defendant’s offender score, which is then used in determining an appropriate sentence. In a recent case in which the defendant pleaded guilty to numerous crimes, including fourth-degree assault domestic violence, the Court of Appeals of Washington discussed how out of state prior convictions should be assessed when determining an offender score. If you reside in Washington and are charged with one or more domestic violence crimes, you should speak with a trusted Washington domestic violence defense attorney about what actions you can take to protect your rights.

Factual and Procedural Background

It is reported that the defendant was charged with numerous crimes, including fourth-degree assault, domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to the charges. Prior to sentencing, both the defendant and the State submitted briefs regarding the defendant’s Florida criminal history. Following argument on the matter, the court found that five of the defendant’s twelve prior convictions were equal to misdemeanors or gross misdemeanors, and treated two of the convictions as the same course of conduct. Thus, the defendant was given an offender score of 6 on the harassment charge and was subsequently sentenced to 56 months of imprisonment. He then appealed.

Scoring of Out of State Convictions

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court committed an error in calculating his offender score. Specifically, he argued that the 6 Florida convictions the court counted towards his score were only comparable to misdemeanor offenses.

Under Washington law, to determine the comparability of an out of state conviction, a court must first determine whether the elements of the conviction are substantially similar to a Washington offense. If they are not, or if the Washington legislature defines the crime more narrowly than the other jurisdiction, the court must examine the factual record of the out of state conviction to determine factual comparability.

An out of state crime will be factually comparable to a Washington crime if the facts of the record establish conduct that would constitute the Washington crime. Comparability between an out of state offense and a Washington offense must be proven by the State by a preponderance of the evidence. Here, the court found that the underlying facts out of which the defendant’s Florida convictions arose were substantially similar to the Washington offenses to which they were deemed comparable. Thus, the court affirmed the defendant’s sentence.

Meet with an Experienced Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

It is critical for anyone charged with a crime of domestic violence to understand how any prior convictions can affect their case. If you are a resident of Washington charged with a domestic violence crime, it is prudent to meet with an experienced Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case. The proficient attorneys of the Law Offices of Smith & White will work tirelessly to help you strive for a favorable result under the facts of your case. We can be reached through our form online or at 253-363-8662 to schedule a confidential and complimentary meeting to discuss your case.