In many instances in which a defendant is convicted of a crime, the court has discretion with regard to the penalty to impose. In some cases, however, a sentence is mandatory and must be imposed regardless of a judge’s inclination to impose a lesser sentence. Recently, the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1, discussed whether an exceptional sentence is permitted in a case in which the defendant was convicted of domestic violence assault with a deadly weapon. If you are currently faced with a charge of domestic violence, you should consult a proficient Washington domestic violence attorney regarding the defenses that you may be able to assert.
Factual and Procedural Background
The defendant’s father had a domestic violence no-contact order that barred the defendant from coming within 500 feet of his father’s house. In January 2018, however, the police received a call that the defendant entered the father’s home and repeatedly stabbed his brother-in-law with a steak knife. The defendant was arrested on the following day and admitted to stabbing his brother-in-law, and he stated that he knew that he was not supposed to be in his father’s house. He was charged with domestic violence assault with a deadly weapon.
The defendant entered into a plea agreement and requested an exceptional sentence. The court granted the request in part, imposing an exceptional sentence of time served and the mandatory 12-month enhancement for deadly weapons. The defendant appealed, arguing that the court erred in finding that it did not have the discretion to impose an exceptional sentence for the weapons enhancement.
A Court’s Discretion to Impose an Exceptional Sentence
Under Washington law, a court’s erroneous belief that it lacks the discretion to impose an exceptional sentence is an abuse of discretion that may be reversed. Furthermore, the court stated that a court could impose an exceptional sentence that is below the standard range in cases in which the evidence of record justifies such a sentence. In the subject case, however, the court noted that a court could not abuse discretion that it does not have. Specifically, it held that neither case law nor the language of the statute supported the argument that the court had the discretion to impose a lesser sentence.
Instead, the court found that the clear language of the statute stated that if a defendant was armed with a deadly weapon during the commission of a crime, and the defendant is subsequently sentenced for a class B felony, the court must add an additional 12 months to the defendant’s sentence. Furthermore, the statutory language clearly stated that the enhancement was mandatory. As a result, the court found that the sentencing court did not err in finding that it lacked the discretion to impose an exceptional sentence for the deadly weapons enhancement.
Consult an Experienced Domestic Violence Defense Attorney
If you live in Washington and are charged with a domestic violence offense, it is in your best interest to consult an experienced Washington domestic violence attorney about developing a strategy to help you fight to protect your rights. The assertive criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Smith & White will work tirelessly to help you seek the best result available under the facts of your case. You can contact us through our form online or at 253-203-1645 to set up a complimentary and confidential meeting.