Washington Law Review


Lisa K. Strom


In 1981 the Washington state legislature enacted the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) with the intent of reducing disparity in sentencing through the implementation of presumptive sentencing ranges. The SRA authorizes judges to depart from the presumptive range by imposing an exceptional sentence if appropriate mitigating or aggravating factors exist. Since 1981, virtually all courts have determined a factor's appropriateness by considering its relation to the factual nature of the crime itself. In State v. Freitag, however, the Washington Court of Appeals recently held that a trial court may rely on factors which do not directly relate to the nature of the crime as the basis for an exceptional sentence below the standard range. By holding that the trial court may consider a defendant's personal qualities, the stated purposes of the SRA, and the defendant's criminal history, the court has contradicted the intent of the legislature in passing the SRA, ignored Washington case law, and created a dangerous precedent for other courts to follow.

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