Under Washington law, if a defendant is convicted of a crime in addition to imprisonment or probation the court may impose monetary penalties. If a defendant is indigent, however, the court may be barred from imposing certain penalties. In a recent Washington appellate court case, the court analyzed the definition of indigence under recent amendments to the Washington Rules of Criminal Procedure and whether indigency bars domestic violence penalty assessments. If you are a Washington resident currently facing domestic violence charges you should meet with a skillful Washington domestic violence defense attorney to discuss your case and potential penalties you may face.
Facts of the Case
Reportedly, the defendant pleaded guilty to seven offenses, each of which included a domestic violence allegation. The court sentenced the defendant to 347 months of imprisonment and imposed mandatory and discretionary legal financial obligations, including a domestic violence penalty assessment. The defendant appealed, arguing that recent amendments to the Washington legal financial obligation laws barred the imposition of penalties, including the domestic violence penalty, due to his indigency.
Indigency Under Washington Law
In 2018, the Washington legislature amended the rules of criminal procedure. The amendments included a prohibition of the imposition of criminal filing fees against defendants who are indigent at the time of sentencing. Further, the 2018 amendments set forth a specific definition of indigence. Under the amendments, the inability to afford a lawyer is not sufficient to prove a defendant is indigent with regards to the ability to pay legal financial obligations. Rather, the defendant must show either that he or she receives a qualifying form of public assistance, that he or she was involuntarily committed in a public mental health facility, or that his or her annual income, after taxes, is 125 percent or less of the current poverty level established by the federal government.