What Are the Types of Criminal Offenses in Washington?

Most criminal laws are enforced at the state level. While the type of conduct that is criminalized is similar from state to state, the way the laws are enforced can be quite different depending on the state you are in. The classification of criminal offenses affects how a charge is tried and what sentencing is allowed with the judge’s discretion.

Washington state crimes and the penalties associated with them are based on statutes that are written and passed by the Washington state legislature. These laws can be found in the Revised Code of Washington. In addition, many cities and counties will adopt their own laws that are similar to those found at the state level. These laws can be found in the municipal or county code.

These statutes identify what conduct is illegal and specify the penalties that a judge could impose for a violation of the law. In some cases, a judge has quite a bit of discretion in sentencing. In others, the legislature has limited a judge’s discretion and has specified certain minimum and maximum penalties that can be imposed.

Washington crimes generally fall into one of three categories, based on the nature of the crime and the severity of the penalty.

Classification of Criminal Offenses Affects Washington Penalties

Washington crimes are divided into three broad categories:

  • Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
  • Gross Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
  • Felonies are punishable by more than one year in prison and are further divided into Class A, B, and C.
    • A Class A felony is punishable by up to life in prison and a fine of up to $50,000.
    • A Class B felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $20,000.
    • A Class C felony is punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Misdemeanor crimes are filed in District or Municipal Courts, while felonies are filed in Superior Court.

Alternative Sentencing and Diversion Programs

With the varying classification of criminal offenses in the state, the sentencing an offender receives will depend on many factors but are not set in stone. Some people may be eligible for alternative sentencing, such as a diversion program for first-time offenders or rehabilitation and counseling.

Drug and Alcohol Dependency Evaluation

When drugs or alcohol were involved, most judges will require a chemical dependency evaluation at sentencing.

When drug or alcohol treatment is recommended, a criminal defendant may be required to enroll in some form of drug or alcohol treatment program.

In either case, if drugs or alcohol were a factor in your situation, it is often beneficial to be proactive by seeking an early drug and alcohol evaluation and enrolling in treatment as soon as possible, even before sentencing. These steps send a message to the judge that you take the incident seriously and want to take steps to avoid future problems.

Diversion Programs

If you are a first-time offender charged with a non-violent felony offense, you may be eligible for a diversion program instead of other criminal penalties such as jail time. To be accepted, you must not have any additional criminal violations, must report to your counselor as scheduled, will need to pay all of your fees, court costs, and any restitution, cannot possess a firearm, and will need to comply with any other conditions the court requires.

Domestic Violence Treatment

If your crime involved domestic violence, you may be required to enroll in Domestic Violence Batterer’s Treatment, a 12-month program that involves a domestic violence evaluation and counseling.

Your Defense Against Criminal Charges

Based in Anacortes, Washington, I have extensive experience representing people who have been accused of crimes throughout Northwest Washington. Whatever the nature of the crime, I will thoroughly investigate the circumstances that led to your arrest and the evidence the prosecution intends to introduce to try to secure a conviction. Then, together, we will mount your legal defense.

I take pride in getting to know my clients and their unique needs and circumstances. I will identify what makes your case unique, and use the strengths of your case to pressure the prosecutor to get you a fair resolution. Sometimes that means taking a plea deal; other times it means taking your case to trial.

Regardless, I will fight for you and protect your rights.

I invite you to learn more about The Campbell Law Firm and my criminal defense practice, to read reviews from other people I’ve helped, and to contact me today to schedule a free, confidential, 90-minute consultation to discuss your situation and how I can help.