What Is Washington’s Three Strikes Law?

washington three strikes law

Three strikes, and you’re out. In baseball, that well-known rule means you have to return to the bench and will likely get another chance at bat later. But applied to Washington law, the three strikes rule is much less forgiving.

The Washington three strikes law means those who are convicted of three violent felonies face life in prison. This rule raises the stakes for many Washington residents who have been charged with a crime. Where a conviction would usually mean a few years in prison, life in prison is now a real possibility.

In many cases, this type of blanket rule is not true justice. That is why the criminal defense attorneys at Will & Will work hard to defend the accused every day. For more information, read on or get in touch with our firm.

What Are Three Strikes Laws?

Often called habitual offender laws, three strikes laws are not unique to Washington. Washington was one of the first states to adopt such a law, but many states have adopted similar laws.

While the concept of placing harsher punishments on so-called “repeat offenders” is nothing new, the Washington three strikes law was the first to use the “three strikes” language. This occurred in 1993 when the legislature passed Initiative 593, also known as “Three Strikes You’re Out.” California passed its own version the next year. Dozens of other states followed suit as the years passed.

Most three strikes laws require at least one violent felony offense to apply. In Washington, an example of when the three strikes law would apply could involve someone who has previously been convicted of domestic violence assault in the first or second degree, and then a separate conviction for robbery in the first degree. Now, they are charged with felony assault again either in the first or second degree. If they are convicted of this third violent felony offense, they would be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Washington’s Three Strikes Law

The Washington three strikes law set the standard for such laws around the United States. Revised Code of Washington, Section 9.94A.555 summarizes the reasoning for the law and what it sets out to do:

  • Boost public safety by imprisoning violent offenders for life
  • Apply tougher sentencing to reduce the number of repeat offenders
  • Simplify criminal sentencing practices
  • Restore trust in Washington’s justice system “by directly involving the people in the process”

As lofty as these goals sound, they resulted in a law that can be used unfairly against those who have been accused of crimes in Washington. According to the Washington Policy Center, by 1997, four years after the Washington three strikes law passed, 83 people had been sentenced under the law. And many more since then have been sentenced. Of those convicted under the three strikes law at that time:

  • 45% were convicted of robbery.
  • 20% were convicted of a sex offense.
  • 13% were convicted of a “serious assault.”
  • 10% were convicted of murder.
  • 6% were convicted of kidnapping.
  • 5% were convicted of armed or violent burglary.
  • 1% were convicted of arson.

Legal Options for Individuals Facing Three Strikes Laws

Although any criminal charge is serious and can have life-altering effects, a charge of a third serious/violent felony is especially serious in Washington. Because of the Washington three strikes law, the entire rest of your life could be on the line.

That is why it is so important to seek the guidance of a trusted criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you build a strong defense against the crime you have been accused of. We will gather evidence, look for holes in the prosecution’s arguments and ensure that you are treated fairly throughout the process. Even if you don’t believe you can escape conviction, a skilled lawyer may be able to have your charge reduced, so it does not count as a strike against you.

Let Will & Will Go to Bat for You

In Washington, a third strike could mean a lifetime spent behind bars. The highly qualified attorneys at Will & Will know how to navigate this situation. And we are prepared to help you avoid this harsh punishment.

With over 35 years of combined experience and an in-depth knowledge of the Washington three strikes law, Court & Michelle Will can provide the legal help you need. To get started, call us at 206-209-5585 or contact us online.

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