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Washington Sentence May Not Exceed Statutory Maximum; Court Determines Sentence Length, Not DOC

The Washington state Court of Appeals held that the sentencing court must ensure that the sentence imposed does not exceed the statutory maximum sentence.

Randy Linerud pled guilty to failing to register as a sex offender in Washington. The "parties agreed that the standard range sentence of 43-57 months combined with the mandatory 36-48 months of community custody would exceed the 60 month statutory maximum for a class C felony. The court then imposed a standard range sentence of 43 months of incarceration and 36-48 months of community custody and included a notation in the Judgment… that 'combined maximum of prison time + community custody may not exceed the stat max of 60 months.'"

The Court of Appeals agreed with Linerud that the sentence imposed was indeterminate rather than determinate, holding that a sentence is indeterminate when it puts the burden on the (Department of Corrections (DOC) rather than the sentencing court to ensure that the inmate does not serve more than the statutory maximum." This violates Washington's Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) because "requiring the DOC to calculate an inmate's time served and ensure that it does not exceed the statutory maximum for the offense is not authorized by the SRA." The court held that "whatever authority the DOC may have to grant or deny good time credits or release an inmate from community custody, the courts have a duty under RCW 9.94A.505(5) and RCW 9.94A.30(18) to impose a determinate sentence within the standard range."

"In light of the determinate sentencing requirement and the risks of requiring the DOC to ensure the inmate does not serve in excess of his or her maximum sentence," the court held "that courts must limit the total sentence they impose to the statutory maximum. It is within the trial court's discretion to determine how much of that sentence is confinement and how much is community custody." See: State v. Linerud, 197 P. 3d 1224, 147 Wash. App. 944 (2007).

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Related legal case

State v. Linerud