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Petitions for Prosecutorial Discretion to Seek Resentencing: SB 6164

The legislature, under Senate Bill 6164, allows for the first time, a prosecuting attorney to petition the sentencing court to re-sentence an offender and seek a lesser sentence. This bill passed the State Senate recently and was signed by the governor on March 27th, 2020.

The bill was sponsored by State Sen. Manka Dhingra, who also works as a King County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney when the senate is not in session.SB 6164 Under the law, the prosecutor may petition the sentencing court for a reduction of a sentence if "the original sentence no longer advances the interests of justice." The new law only applies to felonies. The court has the discretion to grant or deny the petition, and should consider the following factors:

  • The inmate's disciplinary record.
  • Any rehabilitative programs the inmate participated in.
  • Any evidence that the time served has reduced the inmate's risk for future violence.
  • Any changes in the inmate's physical condition.

The prosecutor must give notice to the victim of the offense or any survivors so that they can give their input to the court. When this law was considered by the legislature, some prosecutors opposed the bill and others supported it. The King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg testified in favor of the bill and summarized the SB 6164's purpose.

I've been a prosecutor for thirty five years. I've been elected for more than twelve. I believe that a prosecutors obligation to do justice goes backwards as well as goes forward. This bill and the other two that are the on your agenda here are really a way for us to take another look at cases because our state is unique in the sense that we don't have a parole board. So if we don't look nobody will. In my office we have a robust practice that's growing and led by my deputy chief of staff Carla Lee, who's in the fifth row here and another attorney and a paralegal. These cases come to us either in the guise of a claim of actual innocence or a wrongful conviction. They'll come to us in the guise of a clemency review to look at whether a person has been rehabilitated. We have also started to look at cases that may be twenty years old or thirty years old where extraordinarily long sentences were given. What we would look at, in the interest of justice, what we're asking ourselves is can we reconcile the sentence that was given in the mid-nineties, and was something that we would seek today. We ask ourselves "is this an outlier? Was [the sentence] due to a trial where many firearm enhancements were stacked on top of each other and and ultimately is this a fair sentence and is it necessary today? Under Criminal Rule 7.8, we do not have explicit authority that says we can do this. That rule contemplates motions to be made within a year of the judgment where there are mistakes or fraud or newly discovered evidence. It doesn't talk at all about the ability to go back and render a just sentence so that is what this [SB 6164] is about. It is a discretionary power for the prosecutor to ask the court to take another look at an old case without any other restrictions other than it's a sentence that we think no longer serves interest of justice.