Tacoma Felony Attorney(253) 733-2093
Washington divides offenses into two main classifications: misdemeanor and felony charges. Both are illegal, but a felony is much more serious.
A felony may place limitations on your future, and can result in long periods of incarceration. While a felony charge can have a significant and often negative impact on you, it is certainly not hopeless. Your best option in any felony case is to seek out knowledgeable legal professional, so you can get an honest appraisal of your options. If you or a loved one are dealing with any type of felony charge in Tacoma or the surrounding areas, contact The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC at (253) 733-2093 to schedule a free consultation.
Felony Classification, Penalties & Sentencing
The Revised Code of Washington (RCW) designates a crime as a felony based on its severity with examples including certain drug offenses, rape, burglary, and murder. Depending on the nature and other factors involved, felonies are further cataloged into separate classes of gravity, each with its own potential penalties if convicted:
- Class C Felonies: Up to 5 Years in prison and up to $10, 000 in fines.
- Class B Felonies: Up to 10 years in prison and up to $20,000 in fines.
- Class A Felonies: Up to life in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.
Your actual punishment will ultimately be determined by a system outlined in the Washington State sentencing guidelines. These standards provide 15 separate levels from I to XV, each carrying its own range of outcomes. Essentially, if you are convicted of a felony, these guidelines along with any other relevant details will be considered in sentencing. These other details are typically prepared for a sentencing judge and include things like your previous criminal, family, and work history, psychological or treatment evaluations, any victims’ statements, and any mitigating factors.
Real Impact of a Felony Conviction
A common mistake people make when confronted with a felony is underestimating its substantial and lingering effect, even if they avoid incarceration. Unquestionably, staying out of prison should be everyone’s top priority, but that is not the only thing to consider.
A felony on your record can limit things like:
- Future job prospects
- Your eligibility for loans
- Your immigration/citizenship status
- Your ability to own a firearm
- Gaining a professional license
- Affordable housing options
These potential consequences make it essential to find and speak with a capable Tacoma felony attorney, who can examine the facts of your case and work towards minimizing or eliminating any negative effects.
Felony Gun Enhancements in Washington
In addition to the typical consequences for a felony conviction in Washington, if a firearm was used during the commission of certain felony-level offenses, a “firearm enhancement” can significantly heighten your punishment. This is outside of other aggravating factors that might increase your exposure, such as using another type of deadly weapon because Washington considers the use of firearms to be more egregious.
In some instances, the penalties for using a firearm can be even more severe than the standard sentence associated with the original crime. It is also important to note that these enchantments are mandatory and run consecutively to all other sentencing. Firearm enhancements in Washington are not eligible for sentence reductions based on good behavior and must be served in total confinement, meaning an individual cannot serve an enhanced sentence through alternatives like house arrest or work release. For example, if you are convicted of felony assault and were armed at the time, even if you avoid the maximum sentence allowable under the law for the assault, you will still be subjected to the mandatory term of imprisonment for having the firearm.
Specifically, RCW 9.94a.533 outlines that courts in Washington must apply the following firearm enhancements to individuals if they or an accomplice are convicted of an underlying offense and were armed with a firearm at the time:
- Firearm Enhancement for Class C Felonies – 18 months for a first offense and three years for a subsequent conviction.
- Firearm Enhancement for Class B Felonies – Three years for a first offense and six years for a subsequent conviction.
- Firearm Enhancement for Class A Felonies – Five years for a first offense and 10 years for a subsequent conviction.
Virtually all felonies in Washington can include a firearm enhancement, except those where using a firearm is already an essential element of the crime. These include firearm offenses like the unlawful possession of a firearm, possession of an illegal firearm, or the unlawful discharge of a weapon.
While the possession or use of a firearm during the commission of a felony can seem clear in some cases, such as robbing a store at gunpoint, there are instances where constructive possession comes into play. If you were charged with robbery and a gun was in your vehicle, a firearm enhancement may not be appropriate. Essentially, by working with a skilled Tacoma felony attorney with experience in this area, you may be able to show that while you may have had physical possession or access to a firearm, you did not have the degree of control required to support an enhancement. In any event, it is always best to discuss all your options with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney.
Alternatives & Felony Defense Options
The goal of a skilled criminal defense attorney will be to fight for the best possible outcome. By getting to know you, the circumstances that led to your charges, and what’s important to you, we will know how to best approach your case. This will include exploring various felony defense strategies, pursuing any available alternatives to incarceration, negotiating to reduce the charges, or determining if evidence or the charges themselves can be dismissed based on your rights being violated.
Some possible alternative sentences include:
- Alcohol/Drug Treatment
- Participating in Victim Panels
- Anger Management & Counseling
- Community Service
- Electronic Monitoring
- Paying Restitution
- Plea Negotiations
An important thing to consider for anyone accused of a felony is that everyone charged with a crime is presumed innocent in the eyes of the law. This presumption means that the state or prosecutor must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt rather than you needing to prove your innocence. “Reasonable doubt “is a high burden for the State to meet. An effective felony lawyer can help you evaluate the likelihood of the state meeting that burden, and work to build the strongest possible defense strategy.
The sad reality of many felony charges is that they can result from misunderstandings, and accounts from sometimes unreliable or confused witnesses. It may seem frustrating that you cannot simply explain a situation and avoid going through the justice system, but with early and effective representation, you can offer explanations through the proper channels. Working with an attorney will also allow you to present other evidence to prove you were either someplace else when a crime occurred, or were the victim of mistaken identity.
Other felony defense strategies to consider with your attorney may include:
- You acted in duress and subsequently committed a crime
- You lacked the capacity or intent to commit a crime
- You were not aware of a detail that would make an action illegal
- You acted in self-defense or the defense of others
- The crime was committed out of necessity in an emergency
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Speak to an Aggressive Tacoma Felony Attorney Today
With such far reaching and permanent consequences to a felony conviction in Washington, the importance of finding a skilled defense lawyer cannot be overstated.
When you reach out to The Law Offices of Morgan Fletcher Benfield, PLLC, you can rely on honest communication about your case and a commitment to find the best course of action.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony in or around Tacoma, Washington, we are here to help.