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Washington DOC Ordered to Pay $174,000 for False Imprisonment

A Washington state woman has been awarded $174,000 in damages after the Washington Department of Corrections (DOC) miscalculated her sentence, causing her to stay in prison an extra 18 months.

Melanie Hinkle was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the second degree and was sentenced to 120 months in prison. The DOC calculated Hinkle’s sentence as if it was for a Class A felony, which limited Hinkle’s earned release time to a maximum of fifteen percent of her sentence.

Hinkle was not convicted of a Class A felony, though. The crime of conspiracy to commit murder in Washington is a Class B felony, which made Hinkle eligible for earned release time not exceeding one-third of her total sentence. The DOC realized its error on or about January 1, 2006, some 18 months after Hinkle should have been released.

Hinkle brought suit against the DOC, asserting claims of negligence and false imprisonment surrounding the DOC’s miscalculation of her sentence. On October 8, 2007, a jury returned a verdict in favor of Hinkle, awarding her $174,000 in damages. A bill of costs for $720 was also allowed.

Hinkle was represented by Bill Coats of Brett & Coats, a Bellingham, Washington firm. See: Hinkle v. Department of Corrections, Thurston County Superior Court, Case No. 06-2-01967-6.

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Related legal case

Hinkle v. Department of Corrections

Please see the brief bank for documents related to this case.