In the state of Washington, prosecutors can allege a crime, such as assault, was committed with sexual motivation (SM). If they do so, and the underlying charge is a felony, it has very harmful effects, including:
- Elevating the class of crime (so it would increase a class B felony to a class A felony);
- Turning a non-sex offense into a sex crime requiring registration as a sex offender if convicted; and
- Adding ‘flat time’ in custody that must be served consecutively to any other sentence you receive, and you are not entitled to any ‘good time’ credits for that additional time.
Prosecutors often pursue crimes of a violent or sexual nature more aggressively. And even though they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an assault was committed with sexual motivation to get a conviction, the penalties can be incredibly damaging for defendants.
So if you believe you’re under investigation for an assault charge or other charge with a sexual motivation enhancement, contact an experienced defense attorney right away. It could mean the difference between years behind bars and never being charged at all.
Assault in Washington State
To be charged with a sexual motivation enhancement, prosecutors must bring non-sex offense charges first. Usually, those are assault charges.
Assault charges also vary significantly in their seriousness, depending on the situation. Whether you were defending yourself or just had a momentary lapse in judgment, assault convictions can be damaging for defendants.
There are four main degrees of assault charges.
- First Degree Assault – Class A Felony – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.36.011
- Second Degree Assault – Class B Felony – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.36.021
- Third Degree Assault – Class C Felony – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.36.031
- Fourth Degree Assault – Gross Misdemeanor – Revised Code of Washington, Section 9A.36.041
No matter what degree of assault you’ve been charged with, a sexual motivation enhancement will increase your culpability and add to the associated penalties.
What is a sexual motivation (SM) enhancement?
Under Washington State Law, a sexual motivation enhancement can be added to any non-sex offense, but it is often attached to assault charges. According to the Revised Code of Washington, Sections 9.94A.835 and 13.40.135, when you are charged with a non-sex offense and a SM enhancement is added to your case, the judge or jury must decide on the validity of the enhancement in a separate special verdict.
There, they will determine whether you had a ‘sexual motivation’ when committing a crime. ‘Sexual motivation’ is defined by the State of Washington under Section 9.94A.030 to mean a crime committed for “sexual gratification.”
SM enhancements are extremely serious and can increase the penalties for non-sex offenses dramatically. For example, if the underlying charge is a Class A felony, an (S/M) enhancement will add a mandatory two years to the sentence and require sex offender registration.
It can also “trigger the same consequences as any other sex offense, such as higher offender points for subsequent sex offenses, civil commitment, and eligibility or ineligibility for SSOSA or SSODA,” according to the Washington Defender Association.
On top of that, once prosecutors add an SM enhancement to your case, it can’t be withdrawn unless it was found to be in error initially, or there are evidentiary problems RCW 9.94A.835.
Sexual motivation enhancements often lead to immigration issues for non-citizens.
All of this means getting the right representation from the start is critical.
What a Sexual Motivation Charge Means for You
Trust us, the police don’t ‘just want to ‘hear your side of the story.’
The police will do everything to get you to talk without an attorney present, especially in serious cases like these.
If you’re under investigation for a sexual motivation charge, always remember:
- Do NOT talk to the police
- Do NOT talk to anyone else about the situation.
- Contact an experienced defense attorney right away.
Good defense attorneys take a proactive approach to your case during the investigation process to try and mitigate charges or even avoid them altogether.
And if charges are filed, you’ll need the right representation to get the best possible outcome for your case.