Justia Washington Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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M.Y.G. was 15 years old when he stole two cars. The State charged him with two counts of theft of a motor vehicle. M.Y.G. moved for and was granted a deferred disposition, but he objected to providing a DNA sample. The trial court ordered M.Y.G. to submit a DNA sample but stayed collection pending appeal. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, upholding the DNA collection. I.A.S. was 17 years old and under the influence of alcohol when he stole a truck, crashed it into a tree, and ran from the scene. The State charged him with one count of second degree burglary, theft of a motor vehicle, second degree theft, driving under the influence, and failure to remain at the scene of an accident. I.A.S. moved for and was granted a deferred disposition. He too objected to providing a DNA sample, but the court ordered him to submit one, staying collection pending his appeal. The Court of Appeal again affirmed the trial court, requiring I.A.S. to give a DNA sample. I.A.S. and M.Y.G. appealed, presenting the question of whether a juvenile was “convicted” when they enter into a deferred disposition. The Washington Supreme Court held that a juvenile is “convicted” when they enter into a deferred disposition. However, the Court held that the juvenile offenses committed by the petitioners in this case did not trigger the DNA collection statute. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals in part and reversed in part. The orders requiring a DNA sample from M.Y.G. and I.A.S were vacated. View "Washington v. M.Y.G." on Justia Law

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In 1995, petitioner Timothy Haag was sentenced to mandatory life without parole for a crime he committed at the age of 17. In 2018, at a Miller-fix resentencing conducted pursuant to RCW 10.95.030, the resentencing court expressly found that “Haag is not irretrievably depraved nor irreparably corrupt.” Yet the court resentenced Haag to a term of 46 years to life; the earliest that he could be released is at the age of 63. Haag sought review by the Washington Supreme Court, arguing that the trial court erroneously emphasized retribution over mitigation and that his sentence amounted to an unconstitutional de facto life sentence. To this, the Supreme Court agreed, holding the resentencing court erred because it gave undue emphasis to retributive factors over mitigating factors. The Court also held Haag’s 46-year minimum term amounts to an unconstitutional de facto life sentence. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for resentencing. View "Washington v. Haag" on Justia Law

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In November 2017, M.S. was charged with third degree assault of a King County Metro bus driver. M.S. approached the driver’s side window of a King County bus while it was parked. When the bus driver leaned out the driver’s side window to speak to M.S., M.S. squirted urine from a plastic bottle at the bus driver. M.S. pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of fourth degree assault and requested a deferred disposition of the criminal assault charge. The court also asked M.S. if he understood that the court could impose a manifest injustice sentence outside the standard range if it found aggravating factors. The court did not mention at the hearing or in the plea agreement any existing aggravating factors it could rely on if it did impose a manifest injustice sentence. The court granted M.S.’s request for a deferred disposition and in it required M.S. to comply with a number of conditions of community supervision. The trial court ultimately sentenced M.S. to a manifest injustice disposition based on facts and aggravating factors that M.S. had no notice of at the time of his plea. The Court of Appeals affirmed M.S.’s sentence and rejected M.S.’s argument that any right to notice of the factual basis of a manifest injustice disposition existed prior to pleading guilty. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review centered on whether a juvenile, before entering a guilty plea in a criminal proceeding, had a statutory or constitutional due process right to notice of the factual basis of and the intent to seek a manifest injustice disposition. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and held that a juvenile has a right to notice of the factual basis necessary to support a manifest injustice sentence before deciding to plead guilty. View "Washington v. M.S." on Justia Law

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In 2017, D.L., a 14-year-old boy, was charged with three counts of first degree rape and one count of attempted first degree rape of his 5-year-old half brother. At the time, D.L. had no prior criminal history. D.L. successfully negotiated a plea deal with the prosecutor, reducing the charges to a single count of first degree attempted child molestation. D.L. stipulated in his plea agreement that the trial court could use the probable cause statement to determine the facts that supported his conviction. But when the court imposed the manifest injustice disposition, it relied on three facts that were not in the probable cause affidavit: (1) that D.L.’s victim had a cognitive disability; (2) that D.L. refused accountability; and (3) that D.L. would not cooperate with treatment. This case asked the Washington Supreme Court whether due process required that the State give a juvenile notice of these specific facts before pleading guilty if they will be used to justify a manifest injustice disposition. "Ultimately, due process requires that juveniles be treated in a manner that is fundamentally fair. ... Without adequate notice, juveniles and their attorneys cannot predict which facts might be unearthed and weaponized to extend the juvenile’s sentence after the plea. This lack of notice causes unfair surprise to young defendants and serves only to undermine juveniles’ and their families’ trust in our juvenile justice system. Our adult defendants in Washington are not treated so unfairly and neither should we so treat our juveniles." As a result, the manifest injustice disposition was improperly imposed. As D.L. already served his sentence and this case was technically moot; the Court resolved this legal issue without modifying D.L.’s sentence. View "Washington v. D.L." on Justia Law

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Petitioners Dwayne Bartholomew and Kurtis Monschke were each convicted of aggravated first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole - a mandatory, nondiscretionary sentence under Washington’s aggravated murder statute. Bartholomew was 20 years old; Monschke was 19. Many years after their convictions, each filed a personal restraint petition (PRP) asking the Washington Supreme Court to consider whether article I, section 14 of the state constitution or the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution permitted a mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentence for youthful defendants like themselves. "[W]hen it comes to mandatory LWOP sentences, [Miller v. United States, 567 U.S. 460 (2012)]'s constitutional guarantee of an individualized sentence - one that considers the mitigating qualities of youth - must apply to defendants at least as old as these defendants were at the time of their crimes." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted both PRPs and ordered that Bartholomew and Monschke each receive a new sentencing hearing. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Monschke" on Justia Law

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In 1978, 17-year-old Carl Brooks pleaded guilty to eight counts of first degree robbery, first degree rape, first degree kidnapping, first degree assault, second degree murder, and first degree burglary, all while armed with a deadly weapon. Over the span of three days, Brooks carjacked, robbed, and raped a woman while her son was present; attempted to rob a couple where gunfire between Brooks and the male victim led to the shooting death of the victim’s wife; carjacked and robbed a third woman; and threatened a fourth woman in her home, demanded financial information, and assaulted her. Brooks had prior convictions in both juvenile and adult court. At the time, sentencing in Washington was “indeterminate:” trial courts sentenced offenders to the maximum amount of time that could be served. But the amount of time the offender would actually serve was largely controlled by the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles (parole board) who would set the minimum term, taking into account recommendations by the trial court and prosecutor. The judge ordered five of the life sentences to run concurrently, and the remaining three to run consecutively, effectively sentencing Brooks to four consecutive “blocks” (or groupings) of life sentences. Both the prosecutor and the court recommended that the parole board give Brooks minimum terms of life. Departing from the recommendations slightly, the parole board set minimum terms of 20, 25, 25, and 20 years for the four blocks, for a minimum total of 90 years. Not long after Brooks was sentenced, the Washington legislature replaced the indeterminate sentencing system with a determinate system. For those sentenced under the former indeterminate sentencing system who were still incarcerated, the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB) (the successor to the parole board) was directed to “attempt to make [parole] decisions reasonably consistent” with the Sentencing Reform Act. While Brooks has been serving his time, the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juveniles violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The Washington Supreme Court determined that by its plain language, RCW 9.94A.730 applies to Brooks’ sentence. The ISRB was ordered to provide Brooks with a hearing under RCW 9.94A.730 that presumed release. Accordingly, the Court granted the Personal Restraint Petitioned, reversed the Court of Appeals, and remanded to the ISRB for further proceedings. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Brooks" on Justia Law

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In 1994, 17-year-old Cristian J. Delbosque was convicted of aggravated first degree murder and received a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of release. Because he was a juvenile at the time of his offense, Delbosque was resentenced in 2016 in accordance with the Miller-fix statute and received a minimum term of 48 years without the possibility of parole. The Court of Appeals concluded that Delbosque could seek review of his sentence only through a personal restraint petition (PRP), rather than direct appeal, but nevertheless reversed his sentence, holding that the trial court's factual findings were not supported by substantial evidence. The Washington Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' holding that the sentencing court's findings were not supported by substantial evidence, thus remanding for resentencing was proper. However, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that Delbosque was not entitled to a direct appeal. View "Washington v. Delbosque" on Justia Law

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In a moot case of substantial and continuing public interest, a juvenile offender challenges whether her need for treatment was an appropriate basis for imposing a manifest justice disposition. B.O.J. pled guilty to two counts of third degree theft for shoplifting from a grocery store. These offenses subjected her to a "local sanctions" standard sentencing range. In exchange for a plea, the prosecution promised to recommend 6 months of community supervision, 8 hours of community service, credit for time served, release at her sentencing disposition, and no contact with the victims. One month later, the State contended B.O.J. violated the conditions of her release by running away from placement. The State thereafter recommended a manifest justice disposition with confinement in a Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration facility. The trial court stated its findings that both B.O.J.'s need for treatment and the standard sentencing range as too lenient supported the manifest injustice disposition. The Washington Supreme Court determined the trial court's findings were not an appropriate basis for imposing a manifest injustice disposition. The Court reversed the Court of Appeals' holding that B.O.J.'s need for treatment supported the trial court's finding that a standard range disposition would effectuate a manifest injustice. View "Washington v. B.O.J." on Justia Law

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A.M. (juvenile) appealed an unpublished Court of Appeals decision affirming her conviction for possession of a controlled substance. She argued: (1) it was manifest constitutional error for the trial court to admit a detention center inventory form where she signed a sworn statement indicating that a backpack, which was discovered to contain methamphetamine, was her property because it violated her right against self-incrimination; and (2) the affirmative defense of unwitting possession was an unconstitutional burden-shifting scheme that violated her due process rights. After review, the Washington Supreme Court held the admission of the inventory form was manifest constitutional error because it violated her right against self-incrimination and warranted reversal because it was not harmless error. Because the Court found reversible constitutional error, it declined to consider A.M.'s due process argument. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Washington v. A.M." on Justia Law

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A juvenile challenged his suspended manifest injustice disposition. The Court of Appeals dismissed his claim on ripeness grounds; the juvenile disagreed his claim was not yet ripe. Furthermore, the juvenile argued the trial court applied the wrong standard of proof during his sentencing hearing, and as a result, improperly imposed the manifest injustice disposition. The juvenile was convicted on two counts of unlawful imprisonment with sexual motivation, and one count of fourth degree assault without sexual motivation. Since he had no prior criminal history, the State recommended, and the trial court adopted, a manifest injustice disposition of 36 weeks' confinement to be suspended by a special sex offender disposition alternative (SSODA). The parties to this case agreed this case was moot, given the juvenile served his sentence by the time the matter reached the Washington Supreme Court. However, finding the issue presented was one of "continuing and substantial interest," the Washington Supreme Court considered the case, determining that the appropriate standard of proof, as found in controlling Washington case law, was "clear and convincing," or the civil equivalent of the criminal standard of beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court held manifest injustice dispositions suspended by SSODA are reviewable when imposed - juveniles do not need to wait for the disposition to be executed before challenging it. Therefore, the Court of Appeals' ruling to the contrary was overturned. The Court affirmed the juvenile's conviction and sentence. View "Washington v. T.J.S.-M." on Justia Law