Washington Felonies: What You Need to Know
Most states classify crimes as misdemeanors or felonies. Felonies are the more serious types of crimes, such as rape and murder. A felony conviction can result in serious penalties. It’s important to understand what you’re facing and the potential consequences.
Felony Classification in WA
There are two classification methods for felonies in Washington. The severity of the crime determines those classifications, and they help judges establish sentencing ranges.
Felony Penalties in WA
Felonies are first placed into classes, from Class A through Class C.
- Class A Felonies, which are the most serious, are punishable by up to life in prison and fines of up to $50,000.
- Class B Felonies may result in up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.
- Class C Felonies may result in up to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Felony Seriousness Levels in WA
Felony crimes in Washington are then classified by seriousness in a complex system under the Washington sentencing guidelines. There are 15 seriousness levels, from Level I through Level XV. More serious crimes will result in higher penalty levels, including more time in prison and higher fines.
Aggravating & Mitigating Factors in Felony Cases
Aggravating factors in felony cases are circumstances that make the offense more serious and can lead to a harsher sentence. Some common aggravating factors include:
- Prior convictions, especially if they are violent
- Use of a weapon during the crime
- Vulnerability of the victim
- Multiple victims
- Cruelty or violence
- Financial harm
Mitigating factors in felony cases are circumstances that make the offense less serious and can lead to a lighter sentence. Some common mitigating factors include:
- Mental or emotional impairment
- Cooperation with the authorities
- Genuine remorse for the crime
Judges consider both aggravating and mitigating factors when sentencing a defendant. The weight given to each factor varies depending on the case. In some cases, the aggravating factors may outweigh the mitigating factors, resulting in a harsher sentence.
In other cases, the mitigating factors may outweigh the aggravating factors, resulting in a lighter sentence.
Other Consequences of a Felony
In addition to prison time, fines, and a lasting mark on your record, the collateral effects of a felony conviction in Washington can be far-reaching.
- Difficulty finding and keeping a job
- Difficulty finding housing
- Difficulty obtaining financial aid and entering college
- Difficulty qualifying for public benefits
- Difficulty getting a professional license
- Difficulty getting a driver’s license
- Difficulty obtaining a passport
- Difficulty entering the military
- Difficulty voting and owning a gun
- Difficulty obtaining certain types of insurance
- Difficulty finding housing in specific neighborhoods
Dealing with Felony Charges
If you are arrested and get a felony charge, the following steps will typically take place:
You will be taken to the police station for booking. This involves being fingerprinted, photographed, and having your personal information recorded.
You will be arraigned in court. This is a hearing where the judge will inform you of the charges against you and ask you to enter a plea of not guilty or guilty. The judge will then make a bail determination and set conditions of release.
If you plead not guilty, the judge will set a date for a preliminary hearing. Your defense attorney will then start to thoroughly review the police report and begin investigating your case. Negotiations between your defense attorney and the prosecutor will begin and your attorney will attempt to get you the most favorable result.
If a resolution is reached, you can accept a pre-trial resolution. You have a Constitutional right to trial and can proceed to trial if you do not want to accept the prosecutor’s offer. If you are convicted of a felony crime, the judge will sentence you. The sentence may include prison time, probation, fines, and other penalties.
Defending Against a Felony Offense.
No felony criminal allegation should be taken lightly. A felony defense lawyer in Seattle can help you build a strong defense and pursue the best possible resolution, from reducing a felony to a misdemeanor or a complete dismissal.
Whether you have been charged with a state felony or a federal felony, there are ways to fight back.
Defense strategies used in felony cases:
- Challenging the legality of the arrest or search
- Filing a motion to suppress evidence
- Challenging the sufficiency of the evidence
- Asserting an alibi defense
- Asserting a self-defense defense
- Presenting mitigating factors