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1999 Washington State Legislative Roundup

The 1999 Washington legislature created or amended far too many statutes of interest to our readers to adequately summarize, but here are some highlights:

Custodial Misconduct makes it a class C felony for an employee or contract personnel of a correctional agency [or] law enforcement officer to have sexual intercourse with a resident of a state, county, or city adult or juvenile correctional facility& [or who] is being detained, under arrest or in the custody of a law enforcement officer& The law specifies that Consent of the victim is not a defense to prosecution&.

Custodial sexual contact other than sexual intercourse is classified as a gross misdemeanor. In either case, it is considered an affirmative defense prosecution&, to be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, that the act of sexual intercourse or sexual contact resulted from forcible compulsion by the other person.

Worth noting is that the legislature assigned 1st degree custodial misconduct an offense level of V on the sentencing grid, making the presumptive sentencing range for a first-time offender a mere 6-12 months.

Sexual Misconduct by Employees of Custodial Agencies This statute outlines the administrative procedures to be followed by the state DOC when the secretary [of corrections] has reasonable cause to believe that sexual intercourse or sexual misconduct between an employee and an offender has occurred. Including that the employee should be immediately suspended, and what steps shall be taken to terminate the person and disqualify them from future employment. This statute attempts to define the limits of state liability in cases of employee sexual misconduct.

Community Custody this statute essentially reintroduces parole to Washingtons criminal justice system. The state eliminated parole with the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1981, switching to a determinate sentencing scheme.

Ever since the SRA took effect in 1984, critics denounced the lack of state control over offenders who, having served their determinate sentence, are released without supervision. The community Custody Act of 1999 grants those critics their wish.

Those convicted of most crimes (sex offenses, violent offenses, and most drug offenses) committed after July 1, 2000 will, in addition to their SRA determinate prison sentence, be sentenced to a term of community custody (i.e. parole) to be served after their prison sentence.

The lengths of community custody guideline ranges will be developed by the state sentencing commission before 12/31/99 and submitted to the legislature. In an early draft of the statute, though, it was suggested that community custody terms of 5, 10, 20 years or life, depending on the seriousness of the underlying offense.

Prisoners may continue to be released from prison prior to the expiration of their maximum term of confinement as a result of earned early release credits (good time). Prior to release, however, the DOC shall assess the offenders risk of re-offense and may establish and modify conditions of community custody, in addition to those imposed by the court, based upon the risk to community safety.

After release, offenders will be under the supervision of a community custody [parole] officer. Failure to conform to the terms of community custody may result in re-incarceration for up to the maximum term of confinement. Those on post-release supervision who have maxed out their term of confinement are subject to DC supervision until their term of community custody expires. For such an offender& who violates any condition of community custody & the department may impose a sanction of up to 60 days in total confinement for each violation.

Those who are accused of violations will be given a hearing which shall be considered as offender disciplinary proceedings&. In other words, suspected parole violators will be afforded no more due process than prisoners receive in a prison disciplinary hearing. There is an appeal process, but the reviewing authority is a panel of three reviewing officers and the sanction will not be reversed or modified unless two of the three panel members find that the sanction was not reasonably related to any of the following: (i) The crime of conviction; (ii) the violation committed; (iii) the offenders risk of re-offending or (iv) the safety of the community. In other words, there is no meaningful appeal.

Sex offenders could face up to life-time community custody supervision. The statute singles out sex offenders and specifies that any time prior to the completion or termination of& community custody, if the court finds that public safety would be enhanced, the court may impose and enforce an order extending any or all of the conditions imposed pursuant to this section for a period up to the maximum allowable sentence for the crime as it is classified in chapter 9A.20 RCW, regardless of the expiration of the offenders term of community custody.

There is much more to this statute than can be summarized here. Those interested in studying this sea change in Washingtons criminal justice system should read the entire statute [Washington Laws, 1999, Chapter 196, pg. 787-826].

One interesting provision buried within allows the DOC to arrange for the collection of unpaid legal financial obligations through the county clerk, or through another entity if the clerk does not assume responsibility for collection. The costs of collection services shall be paid by the offender. The another entity refers to a private collection agency.

Other notable statutes not fully summarized here, but worth looking up and reading in the two volume Laws of Washington, 1999, are:

Ø Doc Civil Service Exemptions, Ch. 122, pg. 424;

Ø Statutory Double Jeopardy, Ch. 1419 pg. 464;

Ø Criminal Sabotage, Ch. 191, pg. 777 (makes it a crime for an employee to willfully damage, destroy, or impair the operation of equipment of any public or private business or commercial enterprise.);

Ø Drug Offenders Sentencing, Ch. 197, pg. 826 (creates treatment sentencing options subject to available resources);

Ø Clemency and Pardons, Ch. 323, pg. 1655 (allows for greater victim input and allows such input to remain inaccessible to the person seeking clemency or pardon);

Ø Extraordinary Medical Placement-Offenders. Ch. 324, pg. 1659 (allows for compassionate release of certain prisoners with serious medical conditions, subject to very strict eligibility criteria);

Ø Inmate Funds Deductions and Interest. Ch. 325, pg. 1685 (most of the provisions of this statute have been or will be covered in other PLN articles);

Ø Sexually Violent Offenders Records (mandates the dissemination of sex offender records to state sheriffs and police chiefs, but exempts those records from public disclosure);

Ø DNA Data Base Violent and Sexual Offenders, Ch. 329, pg. 1702 (mandates the collection of DNA samples retroactive to prisoners currently in custody, as well as new convictions, and expands DNA sampling beyond sex offenders to violent offenders as well.);

Ø Transient Sex Offenders, 1st. Sp. Sess. Ch. 6, Pg. 2343 (sets forth sex offender registration requirements for any person who lacks a fixed residence).

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