In a little over a month, on June 11, 2020, a new Washington law takes effect that allows prosecutors to petition the court to resentence a person if the person's sentence no longer “advances the interests of justice.” Laws of 2020, ch. 203, §1 (SB 6164 (2020)). The law, Senate Bill 6164 (2020), will likely come as welcome news to anyone serving a substantial custodial sentence—as well as their loved ones—because it will give the person an opportunity to petition county prosecutors to advocate for resentencing. But in reaching out to prosecutors, it is critically important to have an experienced lawyer on your side who knows the criminal justice system well, has good relationships with prosecutors, and who has taken the time to understand the nuances of the new law. This is where the lawyers of Tomlinson Bomsztyk Russ come into play.
For example, we have researched the legislative history of the new law, and have an excellent understanding of the concerns that led the Washington Legislature and Governor to enact this bill into law. For example, when the Washington Senate first considered the new law in the Senate Committee on Law and Justice, legislative staff explained that the 1981 Sentencing Reform Act (“SRA”) effectively eliminated “discretionary sentencing” in Washington, and required judges to sentence persons within a certain “standard sentence range.” Original Senate Bill Report for SB 6164. But since that time—as public law enforcement officials testified before the Senate committee—we have learned a lot about concepts like “behavior modification,” “risk responsivity,” and “criminogenic needs.” Senate Bill Report at 2. In other words, the sentencing philosophy of the 1980s is no longer correct. Today, we know that lengthy prison sentences do not necessarily serve the interests of justice. And because of that new knowledge, “[t]here needs to be a way to look back at cases . . . with a view to whether [criminal justice practitioners] can reconcile the sentence with what we would do today.” Senate Bill Report at 2.
The Washington House of Representatives also heard public testimony before voting on the bill, in the House Committee on Public Safety. There, our legislators were informed by various public safety officials that “[i]n recent years, practitioners and experts have learned more about human behavior and implicit bias, and it is clear that some past [sentencing] practices and decisions did not serve the interests of justice.” House Bill Report for SB 6164, at 3. In other words, the Washington Legislature and Governor have recognized that the sentencing practices of thirty years ago may not be appropriate today. Thanks to that recognition, Washington county prosecutors will soon have the authority to petition for resentencing.
In order to put your best foot forward when reaching out to the county prosecutors, make sure that you have a lawyer on your side who understands Senate Bill 6164 (2020) well, and who is prepared to present your best case to the prosecutor. Call Tomlinson Bomsztyk Russ today.