Washington Court Holds Deadly Weapon Enhancements are not Discretionary

A Washington law known as the Sentencing Reform Act provides standard sentencing ranges that set forth what the legislature has deemed an appropriate sentence for a crime. A sentencing court is not always required to abide by the standard sentence, and in some cases may set forth an exceptional sentence, which is a sentence that is below the sentencing range.

Recently, a Washington Court of Appeals explained when a court’s refusal to issue an exceptional sentence and noted that a court’s discretion to impose an exceptional sentence does not extend to deadly weapon enhancements.  If you face charges for a crime that involves the use of a deadly weapon, you should speak with a knowledgeable  Washington criminal defense attorney to discuss your available defenses.

Facts Surrounding the Alleged Crimes

Reportedly, the defendant participated in what he believed was an organized robbery of a marijuana dispensary with some of the dispensary employees. The dispensary supervisor saw the robbery on surveillance video and called 911. The defendant and his co-conspirators were subsequently arrested and the defendant was charged with robbery in the first degree and unlawful imprisonment.

He pled guilty and was sentenced to 36 months imprisonment for the robbery charge, 3 months imprisonment for unlawful imprisonment, and a 60-month firearm enhancement, to be served after the 36-month sentence, which were the minimum standard range sentences. The defendant appealed his sentence, arguing the court failed to consider certain factors in favor of granting an exceptional sentence and that the court abused its discretion by not reducing the firearm enhancement.

Appealing a Sentence 

On appeal, the court noted that while under the Sentencing Reform Act a standard range sentence cannot be appealed a defendant can challenge the method in which a standard range sentence is calculated. If a defendant challenges the denial of an exceptional sentence, the court’s review is limited to whether the court imposing the sentence refused to issue an exceptional sentence regardless of the circumstances or relied on impermissible grounds for refusing to do so.

Here, the defendant did not seek an exceptional sentence but agreed that he would not ask for a downward departure as part of his plea agreement. The court stated, however, that this did not preclude him from challenging the sentence if the sentencing court mistakenly found that an exceptional sentence was not available to the defendant. The court found that the sentencing court found the defendant’s arguments insufficient to justify an exceptional sentence and therefore, the sentence should not be disturbed.

Firearm Enhancement

Further, the defendant argued that the Sentencing Reform Act granted the sentencing court the discretion to shorten the length of the firearm enhancement as an exceptional sentence. The court disagreed, stating that under Washington law, the firearm enhancement was mandatory. Moreover, the court noted that the Supreme Court of Washington held that a court’s discretion to impose an exceptional sentence was not extended to deadly weapon enhancements. As such, the court found that the sentencing court was not permitted to shorten the firearm enhancement, and affirmed the sentence.

Meet with a Skilled Washington Weapons Charge Defense Attorney

If you face charges for a crime that involves the use of a deadly weapon, it is in your best interest to meet with a skilled  Washington weapons charge defense attorney to formulate a defense.  The attorneys of the Law Offices of Smith and White will work diligently to help you seek a successful outcome under the circumstances surrounding your case. You can reach us at 253-203-1645 or through the online form to schedule a conference.

More Blog Posts:

Supreme Court of the State of Washington Clarifies that Any Five Year Conviction Free Period Meets the Statutory Requirement for Restoration of Gun Rights, October 19, 2018, The Law Offices of Smith & White Blog

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