Category Archives: Department of Corrections

“Good Time” Early Release

Image result for good time early release

A recent news article from The News Tribune and the Bellingham Herald discussed how inmates earn time off their sentences. Also, earned release time is at the heart of the mistaken early release of inmates that is roiling the state prison system. The scandal has shown just how complicated the calculations involved can be, requiring software whose programming errors freed as many as 3,200 inmates early yet went undetected for a decade. At least two of the inmates prematurely released were later charged with deaths that happened while they should have been in prison.

These recent developments inspired this blog.

Although I’m highly successful at resolving serious criminal cases in a manner which avoids prison sentences, if prison is unavoidable then I do my best to reduce and/or amend their criminal charges in a manner which allows for early release through “Good Time.” It’s time to clarify some misunderstandings about what “Good Time” really is.


“Good Time” is governed by RCW 9.94A.728 and RCW 9.94A.729Washington’s Department of Corrections does not allow Good Time to individuals serving life without parole or sentenced to death. Also, Good Time cannot reduce a mandatory minimum prison sentences. There is no good time awarded on deadly weapon or firearm enhancement time. DOC does not award good time for sexual motivation enhancements. There is no good time awarded when confinement is imposed on conviction of a sex offense under Washington’s Special Sex Offender Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA).

DOC uses specific terms for what we call good time: DOC calculates “earned release time” (ERT) as a combination of “good conduct time” and “earned time credit.”  “Good conduct time” is time awarded for good behavior and “earned time credit” is time awarded for participating in DOC approved programming such as work and school.  A person who earns early release time and who shall be supervised by DOC will be transferred to community custody in lieu of earned early release. A comprehensive guide to good time and other related issues can be found at the DOC web site.


No. Under state law, the 50% good time rule expired on July 2, 2010, and has not been reinstated.


The chart below lists the potential good time that an inmate can receive.  Individuals may not be released on their early release date if they do not have a Release Plan, even if they have earned the time.

Crime type/classification Eligible Good Time Notes
Serious Violent or Class A Sex Offense Up to 10% if sentenced on or after 7/1/2003


Up to 15% for individuals sentenced from 7/1/90-7/1/2003
All other offenses Up to 33%

For all individuals sentenced July 2, 2010 and after, unless they are sentenced as a persistent offender.

Previously – up to 50% for certain offenses, depending upon risk level and other factors, if sentenced July 1, 2010 and before.


For the most part, offenders may receive 10% – 33% off for “Good Time.”


In 2009, the DOC implemented a standardized assessment which conducts an offender’s risk assessment upon arrival. That assessment determines the offender’s classification. Factors include criminal history (including in other states), current crime, and history and type of infractions. The “tool” is supposed to be more effective at determining risk. From DOC’s standpoint, this approach is supposed to be more effective at determining risk.

However, the Defense Bar has criticized DOC’s standardized assessment criteria as being “static” and “inflexible.”  Before 2009, individuals could see their classifications change for the better. Now, however, it doesn’t ever improve for the better– the risk category stays the same or gets worse.


Washington’s prisons house more than 16,000 people. More than 2,000 of them work for Correctional Industries, which is one way inmates can qualify for earned release time. Another 1,000 are on the waiting list, according to the job-training program.

About 9,000 are involved in some kind of education program, according to the community-college system that runs the programs. Hundreds more are on waiting lists for classes. The college system offers high-school level education, vocational training, and other programs such as job-search, parenting and anger-management courses. State law doesn’t allow state money to be used to award associate degrees.

Keeping all of this in mind, it’s imperative for defense attorneys to properly advise clients facing prison sentences of their eligibility for earned release and opportunity for rehabilitative programs.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Bill Seeks Prison Time for Drone Crimes

Drone and Moon

Interesting news article from the Skagit Valley Herald. In an article titled, “Senate OKs Bill That Would Add Prison Time For Drone Crimes,” The WA Senate passed a bill that would allow prosecutors to seek an extra year in prison for offenders who use a drone aircraft while committing a crime.

Senate Bill 5499 passed on a 34-15 vote Tuesday and now heads to the House forconsideration. It adds the allegation of a “nefarious drone enterprise” to Washington criminal law. The state currently has no restrictions on the use of drones, although 20 other states have enacted laws on drone-related issues.

The bill adds a year to the sentencing range that dictates how judges can punish an offense. The measure was one a handful of other bills concerning drones that were filed in the Legislature this session in the wake of Gov. Jay Inslee’s veto of a bill last year that would have restricted how state and local government agencies use the unmanned aircraft.

My opinion? Although sad, Senate Bill 5499 was foreseeable. For example, under  RCW 46.20.285, defendants convicted of felonies get their driver’s licenses revoked for 1 year if a vehicle was used during the commission of a crime. It makes sense, therefore, that Prosecutors would get aggressive toward defendants if drones were used to further the commission of a crime. Sad but true.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

What Caused the Decline In Crime?

What's Behind The Decline In Crime?

A new report examines the dramatic drop in crime nationwide over the past two decades — and analyzes various theories for why it occurred.

In What Caused the Crime Decline? a team of economic and criminal justice researchers examined over 40 years of data, gathered from 50 states and the 50 largest cities. Their work examines one of the nation’s least understood recent phenomena – the dramatic decline in crime nationwide over the past two decades – and analyzes various theories for why it occurred.

It concludes that over-harsh criminal justice policies, particularly increased incarceration, which rose even more dramatically over the same period, were not the main drivers of the crime decline. In fact, the report finds that increased incarceration has been declining in its effectiveness as a crime control tactic for more than 30 years. Its effect on crime rates since 1990 has been limited, and has been non-existent since 2000.

More important were various social, economic, and environmental factors, such as growth in income and an aging population. The introduction of CompStat, a data-driven policing technique, also played a significant role in reducing crime in cities that introduced it.

The report concludes that considering the immense social, fiscal, and economic costs of mass incarceration, programs that improve economic opportunities, modernize policing practices, and expand treatment and rehabilitation programs, all could be a better public safety investment.

Nobel laureate Dr. Joseph E. Stiglitz called the report “groundbreaking” in a foreword.

This is interesting reading. Also, their research contained information on how/why specific states’ drop-off in crime happened.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.


State v. Jardinez: Parole Officer Conducts Overbroad Search of Defendant’s iPod

How to distinguish a 5.5th generation 'Enhanced' iPod - Macintosh How To

Good decision.

In State v. Jardinez, the Court of Appeals held that a community corrections officer’s (CCO) review of video on a parolee’s iPod Nano violated the parolee’s constitutional rights because the CCO did not have a reasonable suspicion based on articulated facts that the iPod Nano contained evidence of past, present or future criminal conduct or violations of the parolee’s conditions of release.

The defendant Felipe Jardinez was an parole for Drive-By Shooting and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm Second Degree. He served prison time followed by 18 months of community supervision. The conditions of community custody included requirements to report to his CCO, refrain from possessing controlled substances and refrain from possessing firearms.

On November 3,2011, Felipe lardinez missed a scheduled meeting with his CCO. The CCO called Jardinez. The two scheduled to meet the next day. During the appointment, Martinez asked Jardinez to submit to a urinalysis test. Jardinez admitted that the test would show marijuana use.

The CCO instructed Jardinez to empty his pockets. Jardinez placed an iPod Nano onto a desk. The CCO was interested in the iPod because parolees occasionally take pictures of themselves with other gang members or “doing something they shouldn’t be doing.” When the CCO handled the iPod, Jardinez appeared nervous. Nevertheless, the CCO lacked facts that the iPod video player would show evidence of a crime or violation of the conditions of the defendant’s community custody.

The CCO accessed the iPod. He found a video recorded earlier that morning. The CCO played the video. It showed  Jardinez pumping a shotgun in his bedroom. Jardinez was arrested. Police searched his home and found the shotgun seen in Jardinez’s iPod video.

Jardinez was charged with Unlawful Possession of a Firearm First Degree. Jardinez moved to suppress the evidence obtained through the CCO’s search of his iPod, and all evidence seized as a result of law enforcement officers searching his home as the spoiled fruit of the unlawful viewing of the video on his iPod.

The trial court granted Felipe Jardinez’s motion to suppress. The court concluded that a warrantless search of the iPod would be justified only if the CCO had a reasonable suspicion based on articulated facts that the device contained evidence of past, present or future criminal conduct or violations of the defendant’s conditions of community custody. The case went up on appeal.

At issue was whether the CCO had legal authority to search the content of Jardinez’s iPod when the CCO did not expect the search to yield evidence related to either of the known parole violations, Jardinez’s failure to appear, or his marijuana use.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that unless an exception is present, a warrantless search is impermissible under both article I, section 7 of the Washington Constitution and the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. A trial court may suppress evidence seized from an illegal search under the Exclusionary Rule or the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree Doctrine.

The Court further reasoned that Washington law recognizes that probationers and parolees have a diminished right of privacy that permits a warrantless search based on probable cause. Parolees and probationers have diminished privacy rights because they are persons whom a court has sentenced to confinement but who are serving their time outside the prison walls. Therefore, the State may supervise and scrutinize a probationer or parolee closely.  Nevertheless, this diminished expectation of privacy is constitutionally permissible only to the extent necessitated by the legitimate demands of the operation of the parole process.

RCW 9.94A.631 provides exceptions to the warrant requirement. RCW 9.94A.631(1) reads:

If an offender violates any condition or requirement of a sentence, a community corrections officer may arrest or cause the arrest of the offender without a warrant, pending a determination by the court or by the department. If there is reasonable cause to believe that an offender has violated a condition or requirement of the sentence, a community corrections officer may require an offender to submit to a search and seizure of the offender’s person, residence, automobile, or other personal property.

Also, the Court based its decision principally upon the Sentencing Guidelines Commission’s comment about RCW 9.94A.631(1). The Commission wrote as its official comment behind the statute:

The Commission intends that Community Corrections Officers exercise their arrest powers sparingly, with due consideration for the seriousness of the violation alleged and the impact of confinement on jail population. Violations may be charged by the Community Corrections Officer upon notice of violation and summons, without arrest. The search and seizure authorized by this section should relate to the violation which the Community Corrections Officer believes to have occurred.

Based on the court’s reading of the statute and its counterpart comment, it found RCW 9.94A.631 did not authorize the CCO’s warrantless search of the contents of Jardinez’s iPod. It affirmed the trial court’s suppression of the evidence of Felipe Jardinez’s unlawful possession of a firearm.

My opinion? Good decision. I’ve posted similar blogs stating that CCO’s and probation officers exercise too much power over defendants. This certainly is one of those cases.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

DOC: Budget Cuts Will Force Offenders To Go Unsupervised

Budget Cuts Could Add To Montana Jail, Prison Overcrowding Problems | MTPR

It appears the Department of Corrections (DOC) Secretary Eldon Vail says the DOC will stop supervising 9,000 people due to decreased state budgets.  The group includes property, drug, and non violent offenders.  The most violent offenders and high-level sex offenders, however, will not see a change in supervision or management.  Additionally, inmate beds will be reduced.  One DOC prison will also be closed.

Some worry that crime will increase.

My opinion?  Again, the embattled economy has caught up with the criminal justice system.  It’s interesting what happens when we’re forced to tighten our belts, both individually and collectively.  On an individual level, we spend less on luxury items.  We hope that our sacrifices are enough to pull us through hard times.  If not, we consider more drastic measures, and perhaps (gasp) a total retooling of our spending habits.

Collectively, our weakened economy makes our lawmakers to realize that jailing low-level crimes is an expensive luxury.  I’ve often blogged that incarceration is THE MOST EXPENSIVE solution to crime and punishment.  We can’t afford to blindly warehouse people any more.  It isn’t the answer.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New Findings: Decline in Black Incarceration for Drug Offenses


For the first time in 25 years, since the inception of the “War on Drugs,” the number of African Americans incarcerated is state prisons for drug offenses has declined substantially.  According to a recent study released by The Sentencing Project, there exists a 21.6% drop in the number of blacks incarcerated for a drug offense.  This presents a decline of 31,000 people during the period 1999-2005.

Why the decrease?  The study shows that many states are softening their approach to crime by reconsidering overly punitive sentencing on defendants.  Diversionary programs are also being re-examined.  The changing approach is, not surprisingly, inspired by fiscal concerns.  Policymakers recognize that skyrocketing corrections costs cut into public support for higher education and other vital services.

Second, at the federal level, the U.S. Sentencing Commission has enacted changes in the sentencing guidelines for crack cocaine offenses, and members of Congress are considering proposals to reform the mandatory penalties for crack offenses.

My opinion?  Ironically, the economic recession has spurred positive changes in the criminal justice system.  Many lawmakers realize the foolishness behind incarcerating people for low-level drug offenses.  Also, I believe the “War on Drugs” has changed tactics.  Nowadays, police are more interested in busting defendants for methamphetamine (meth) than crack cocaine.  Meth is considered  a much larger risk to public safety and health.

Meth is also largely used/possessed by non-minorities.   This is partially because most meth labs are found in rural destinations; which have more Caucasians, and not so much in the inner city, where more minorities dwell.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Closing Prisons, Slashing Sentences Eyed to Balance Budget

The Legislature endangered the public by botching criminal-justice reform

In a sour economy, Washington and other states’ lawmakers are considering budget cuts that would close prisons, loosen sentencing guidelines and slash probation terms.  Lawmakers in Olympia are looking for nearly $4 billion in spending cuts.

My opinion?  Make lemonade out of lemons.  Perceive our budget woes as opportunities to revamp our criminal justice system.  Community service helps everyone.  Jailing low-level offenders helps no one.

Studies show the most expensive and least productive response to drug, mental-health and poverty-driven crime is full confinement. The most effective and most cost-productive response is community-based work, education and retraining.

True, there are some very violent and nasty defendants who probably should be incarcerated (even though they STILL deserve the benefits of a system which adamantly preserves their constitutional rights).  However, most people in the criminal-justice system are not in that violent category. Most are caught up in generations of a lifestyle where low-level crime is the accepted norm. It is these people who are unnecessarily sanctioned with long jail/prison sentences, parole, probation, etc.

My hope is that now, when we are asked to re-evaluate our use of limited resources, we will make the change for a broader, more socially beneficial response to crime.  Don’t spend hundreds of millions on penal institutions that give nothing back.  Instead, spend tens of millions on people.  Schools, community centers and community work programs are cheaper than jails.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.