Information about Juvenile Resentencing


October 26, 2020

On March 2, 2017, in State v. Houston-Sconiers, the Washington Supreme Court held that juveniles (anyone under 18) prosecuted and sentenced in adult court are subject to a different set of sentencing requirements. Simply stated, a judge who sentences a juvenile in adult court must consider a variety of facts that make juveniles "different" from adults, such as brain development and ability to change. In addition, a judge has the "complete discretion" to impose a sentence below the standard sentencing range and below any otherwise-mandatory sentence provisions (such as, but not limited to, the 20 year minimum for Murder 1 and the 5 year consecutive terms for firearm enhancements on Class A felonies).

On September 17, 2020, the Washington Supreme Court decided two cases (In re PRP of Ali and In re PRP of Domingo-Cornelio) which held that the new rules of juvenile sentencing apply to old cases (the new rules are "retroactive"). As a result, anyone under age 18 at the time of their crime(s) who was prosecuted and sentenced in adult court prior to March 2, 2017 may be entitled to a new sentencing hearing where the new sentencing rules under Houston-Sconiers must be applied.

A new sentencing hearing will not happen automatically. Absent an agreement with the prosecutor, each person who believes s/he is covered by these rulings will need to file a pleading (usually a Personal Restraint Petition under RAP 16.3 in the appellate courts or a motion in the county court under CrR 7.8).

However, simply mentioning the cases discussed above and noting that you were a juvenile at the time of the crime is not likely enough to prevail. In addition, a person seeking a new sentence must show that she or he was “prejudiced.” Prejudice is a complicated legal issue. It is important to understand that a defendant could be denied the opportunity for resentencing if they fail to show prejudice in the way that the law defines that term.

If you think the changed law applies to you, we recommend that you contact an attorney. If you cannot afford to hire an attorney, we recommend you contact the public defense agency or administrator in the county where the case occurred. Please note that the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers has no attorneys on it staff and cannot recommend a lawyer to you. You can, however, search our member directory for attorneys here.

Frequently Asked Questions:
Who is covered by the new law?
Houston-Sconiers, decided on March 2, 2017 changed the law by requiring a new procedure at sentencing for all juveniles sentenced in adult court. Ali and Domingo-Cornelio extend the holding of Houston-Sconiers to every juvenile sentenced in adult court prior to March 2, 2017. A juvenile is anyone under 18 years old at the time of the crime.

What about people aged 18-25?
These cases do not apply to you at this time.

What factors must the Court consider in a new sentencing hearing?
The Court must now consider mitigating circumstances related to a defendant's youth, including age and its hallmark features, such as the juvenile's immaturity, impetuosity, and failure to appreciate risks and consequences; the court must also consider factors like the nature of the juvenile's surrounding environment and family circumstances, the extent of the juvenile's participation in the crime, the way familial and peer pressures may have affected him or her, and how youth impacted any legal defense, along with any factors suggesting that the child might be successfully rehabilitated. Houston-Sconiers, 188 Wn.2d at 1.

Will an attorney be appointed for me?
Some counties may automatically appoint an attorney, others may require you to make a request for counsel and demonstrate that you are indigent. Still other counties may require more. You can contact the agency responsible for the appointment of counsel in the county where you were sentenced.

I already filed a motion in the county court without counsel, could I request that an attorney be appointed?
Yes, you can contact the county appointing agency or person and ask to have counsel appointed for you.

I already filed a PRP without counsel, will I get counsel appointed by the Court of Appeals?
Even if you have filed a PRP, you can contact the person or agency in the county where you were sentenced and request a lawyer. If one is appointed for you, tell your lawyer you have a PRP pending. Otherwise, you can file a motion in the appellate court for appointment of a lawyer.

Should I write and file my own motion for resentencing or PRP?
We strongly recommend that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney first.