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Washington Court Discusses Changes to Sentencing Laws in Tacoma and Washington DUI Case

by | Apr 30, 2024 | DUI, DUI and Evidence

Washington courts rely, in part, on the convicted party’s offender score when determining sentences for people convicted of crimes under Washington law. Following recent changes in the law, such scores cannot include juvenile adjudications, but as discussed in a recent Washington DUI case, the amendment to the law does not apply retroactively. If you are charged with driving under the influence, you should speak to a Tacoma DUI defense lawyer about your potential defenses.

Background of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with and convicted of felony driving under the influence after an incident where a car was found off the road. The key issue during the trial was whether the defendant was the driver of the car. Several witnesses, including an emergency medical technician and the police officer who responded to the incident, observed the defendant near the car. The EMT saw the defendant rummaging in the driver’s seat before climbing over to the passenger seat and exiting the vehicle.

Reportedly, the EMT and police officer both detected the smell of alcohol on the defendant and heard her statements suggesting she was not driving. The defendant refused to take a breath test. The trial court admitted the defendant’s statements made before her arrest but excluded those made at the jail. Despite her challenges to the admission of evidence and the sufficiency of the evidence against her, the defendant was found guilty and sentenced. She then challenged her sentence due to a recent change in Washington law.

Changes in Washington Sentencing Law

Upon review, the court found no basis for vacating the defendant’s conviction. Thus, it affirmed her conviction. In doing so, the court assessed the defendant’s claim regarding a recent amendment to Washington law, which prohibits the inclusion of certain juvenile adjudications in adult offender scores.

The court determined that this amendment does not apply retroactively to Troutman’s case, as the plain language of the law and legislative intent do not indicate retroactive application. Consequently, the defendant’s offender score, which included juvenile dispositions, remained unchanged for sentencing purposes.

Additionally, the defendant argued that the amendment should apply prospectively to her case. However, the court reasoned that the triggering event for applying the amendment is sentencing, and since the defendant’s case was still on direct appeal, the law would apply prospectively if not for the lack of retroactive intent in the legislation. Therefore, the court affirmed the trial court’s decision regarding the calculation of the defendant’s offender score.

Talk to a Dedicated Tacoma Attorney

DUI crimes carry significant penalties, especially for second and subsequent offenses, and it is critical for people charged with such offenses to understand their rights. If you are accused of driving under the influence, you should talk to an attorney about what steps you can take to protect your interests. The dedicated Tacoma DUI defense lawyers of The Law Offices of Smith & White can assess the facts of your case and gather the evidence needed to provide you with a strong chance of a favorable outcome. You can contact us via our form online or by calling us at (253) 203-1645 to set up a conference.