Criminal Charges

Any criminal charge in Washington state can significantly impact your life and your future. Even if you aren’t at risk of jail time, the consequences of significant fines, loss of driver’s license, restrictions on international travel to Canada, and other major disruptions in your life can be devastating.

Charged with a crime in Washington? Call now. (888) 246-5778.

What’s more, being branded with a permanent criminal record that can follow you for life can have a tremendous impact on your life and your future. Any time you are subject to a background check, for a job, an apartment rental, or any number of other cases where someone might want to look into your background via a cheap online background check.

A free consultation with an experienced defense attorney will give you the opportunity to be apprised of these risks, so you can decide how to proceed with your case. And of course, if you beat your case in court, you can avoid these harsh penalties. Call to find out what we can do to help.

Washington State Crime Classifications – Misdemeanors & Felonies

The penalties and any risk of jail time you may be facing is dependent on the offense you are charged with. The judge looks to the law, sentencing guidelines, pre-sentence reports (below) to determine what type of sentence your charge may warrant.

The following guidelines are the outlined maximums under Washington state criminal law. We can advice you on what the most likely scenario might be if you are found guilty of the charges you face.

Washington divides its crimes into several general categories of misdemeanors and felonies:

Misdemeanors: Any offense which is punishable by not more than 90 days in jail and fines of $1,000.

Gross Misdemeanors: Any offense which not considered a misdemeanor or felony that is punishable by more than 90 days and less than 1 year in jail and fines up to $5,000.

Class C Felonies: Punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or $10,000 in fines.

Class B Felonies: Punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or $20,000 in fines.

Class A Felonies: Punishable by up to life imprisonment and/or $50,000 in fines.

These classifications are further divided by the seriousness of the crime. Washington has a complex system of sentencing guidelines that further breaks felonies into 15 seriousness levels with Level I being the least serious felony and Level XV being the most serious.

Below is a table representing the sentencing range that would be applied for someone with no criminal record.

Seriousness Level? Sentencing range (in months)?
XV Life imprisonment- death penalty
XIV 240-320
XIII 123-164
XII 93-123
XI 78-102
X 51-75
IX 31-41
VIII 21-27
VII 15-20
VI 12-14
V 6-12
IV 3-12
III 1-3
II 2-6
I 0-60 days

This table only represents potential sentences for first time offenders. Things like prior convictions and the nature of those prior convictions can elevate the sentence exponentially.

Washington Sentencing Procedures

When you are convicted or plead guilty to a crime, the next step is being sentenced. The judge will take many things into consideration when determining an appropriate sentence. For this reason your sentencing date may be a few weeks after your conviction.

In some misdemeanor cases the judge will sentence you on the day of conviction.

In most cases the judge will set your sentencing date far enough out to have a pre-sentence investigation completed and for your attorney to prepare.

Pre-Sentence Investigation

Although there are some cases where a pre-sentence investigation is mandatory (DWI, assault, etc), most of the time it is optional. The judge will typically order one, however, because it allows for a very informed sentencing process.

A probation officer employed by the State of Washington is tasked with completing the investigation that may include interviews of you, your family, employer(s), or any victims. The officer compiles information from these interviews as well as a multitude of other data about you to present to the court.

Pre-sentence reports typically include such things as:

  • Family history
  • Psychological evaluation or history
  • Connections in the community
  • Employment history
  • Criminal history
  • Victim statements
  • Circumstances of the offense

Finally, the pre-sentence report will also include a sentence recommendation from the investigating officer. While the judge does not have to follow this recommendation, she will give it considerable thought due to the experience of the investigating probation officer.

The pre-sentence report will be used not only to decide how much time in prison might be appropriate but also if you would be a good candidate for community supervision or probation in lieu of prison time.


In many circumstances you may be eligible to serve your debt to society while in the community on probation. Probation is also referred to as a “suspended sentence”. Technically your prison sentence is suspended while you serve a term of probation.

If you successfully complete your probation you will not have to serve the prison sentence. If, however, you violate the terms of your probation your probation can be revoked and you can be required to serve out the entire prison term you were originally sentenced to.

The conditions or terms of probation are set forth by the judge at sentencing time, by statute, and by the officer who supervises you. They may include random drug testing, treatment or therapy of some kind, employment, community service, or curfews.

The terms are customized to fit you and the offense you committed. The terms and conditions can be relaxed as time goes on and you show the court you are committed to a successful probationary term. But they can also be tightened if the probation officer and/or the courts feel that you need more structure.

A good attorney can help petition the court to allow you to serve you sentence while on probation. We can also help you if you are facing probation violations in court.

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