Court Discusses Timeliness of Personal Restraint Petitions in Washington

Given the unpredictable nature of criminal trials, in many cases, it is prudent to enter into a plea agreement with the State. Generally, a criminal defendant’s attorney will inform him or her of any plea offers, and advise the defendant of whether the offer is reasonable or whether the defendant should proceed to trial. If a defendant’s attorney does not communicate a plea offer, however, and the defendant is convicted, the defendant may not have any recourse if he or she does not learn of the offer in a timely fashion. This was explained in a recent assault case decided by the Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 3, highlighting the importance of retaining an effective attorney.  If you are charged with assault, it is essential to retain an assertive Tacoma assault defense attorney to help you seek a favorable result.

Facts and Procedure of the Case

Allegedly, the defendant was charged with multiple crimes, including numerous assault offenses and possession of a stolen firearm. The court assigned a public defender to represent the defendant. The public defender received a plea offer from the prosecutor, which the public defender communicated with the defendant. The defendant declined to accept the offer. Subsequently, the prosecutor sent the public defender an offer with a recommended sentence of 120 months. The offer went unanswered and ultimately expired. A jury convicted the defendant on all but one charge, and the court sentenced him to 432 months imprisonment.

It is reported that the defendant appealed his conviction and sentence, but the appeal was denied. He then filed a personal restraint petition that was also denied. He subsequently filed a motion for relief from judgment, which was considered as a personal restraint petition. The court ultimately dismissed the petition as time-barred.

Timeliness of a Personal Restraint Petition

The court noted that the defendant filed his petition more than one year after his judgment and sentence was final. Thus, under the Rules of Court of Washington, it was barred as untimely unless the judgment was entered without jurisdiction or was invalid on its face, or fell under one of the six enumerated exceptions. The court conceded that newly discovered evidence provides grounds for relief in a personal restraint petition if the facts demonstrate that a conviction or sentence must be vacated in the interest of justice.

In the subject case, the defendant argued that the newly discovered evidence that his counsel failed to advise him of the second plea offer demonstrated that his counsel was ineffective. The court stated that a defendant has the right to effective counsel and that ineffective assistance of counsel claim is properly raised in a timely personal restraint petition. The court ruled, however, that a claim of ineffective assistance of counsel filed more than one year from when a judgment is final will not be considered, because ineffective assistance of counsel does not fall under any of the six exceptions. As such, the court denied the defendant’s petition.

Consult a Seasoned Washington Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are faced with assault charges in Washington, it is prudent to speak with a seasoned assault defense attorney. The diligent criminal defense attorneys of The Law Offices of Smith & White will assess the facts of your case and advise you of your options for pursuing a successful result. You can contact us at 253-203-1645 or via our form online to schedule a meeting.

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