Washington Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn how Washington classifies and punishes felony offenses.

By , Legal Editor
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated March 28, 2024

As in most states, felonies in Washington are crimes that may be punished by time in state prison. In contrast, misdemeanors in Washington are less serious crimes, punishable by less than a year in county jail.

This article will review the basics of felony classes, penalties, and sentencing in Washington.

How Washington Classifies Felony Offenses

Washington has three classes of felonies. The law describing any particular felony will say whether it's class A, B, or C. That designation then determines the maximum penalties for the crime.

Class A Felonies: Penalties and Examples

The most serious crimes in Washington are class A felonies. The maximum penalties for almost all Class A felonies are life in prison and a $50,000 fine. The exception is aggravated first-degree murder, which must be punished by life in prison without the possibility of parole. (Washington no longer has the death penalty.)

Other examples of Class A felonies in Washington include:

  • first- and second-degree murder
  • first- and second-degree rape
  • homicide that's a result of child abuse
  • first-degree robbery, and
  • first-degree assault.

    (Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.20.021, 9A.32.030, 9A.32.055, 9A.32.060, 9A.32.050, 9A.36.011, 9A.44.040, 9A.44.050, 9A.56.200, 10.95.020 (2024).)

    Class B Felonies: Penalties and Examples

    In Washington, a class B felony conviction can result in a prison term of up to 10 years and a $20,000 fine.

    Examples of class B felonies include:

    (Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.20.021, 9A.32.070, 9A.46.110, 9A.52.025, 9A.56.065, 9A.56.300, 9A.56.310 (2024).)

    Class C Felonies: Penalties and Examples

    A class C felony in Washington is punishable by up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Examples of these lower-level felonies include:

    (Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.20.021, 9A.36.031, 9A.36.041, 9A.56.040, 9A.90.100 (2024).)

    How Felony Sentencing Works in Washington

    Washington uses guidelines to determine an offender's sentence based on the seriousness of the offense and the offender's criminal history. The guidelines sentence generally applies unless the defendant qualifies for an alternative sentencing program.

    Sentencing Alternatives

    Examples of sentencing alternatives in Washington include:

    • first-time offender waiver
    • parenting sentencing alternative
    • drug offender sentencing alternative
    • alien offender sentencing
    • work ethic camp, and
    • mental health sentencing alternative.

    Each sentencing alternative has different eligibility requirements, but most allow a judge to impose a sentence of community custody (similar to probation) rather than incarceration.

    Community Custody

    Community custody allows an offender to serve all or part of their sentencing in the community. A defendant sentenced to community custody must comply with court-ordered conditions, such as remaining law abiding, reporting to a community corrections officer, completing community restitution hours, refraining from alcohol or drugs, staying away from victims or certain individuals, or participating in counseling or treatment. Violating any of these terms can result in sanctions, such as electronic monitoring or home detention, or the judge can send the defendant to prison.

    Felony Sentencing Guidelines

    Washington's sentencing guidelines are complex. It's best to consult an attorney to learn how the guidelines work in a particular case. You can also find more information in the Adult Felony Sentencing Manual on the Caseload Forecast Council's website. This manual also explains the various sentencing alternatives listed above.

    (Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9.94A.505, 9.94A.506, 9.94A.631, 9.94A.633, 9.94A.650, 9.94A.655, 9.94A.660, 9.94A.685, 9.94A.690, 9.94A.695, 9.94A.703 (2024).)

    Felony Statutes of Limitations in Washington

    A criminal statute of limitations is the deadline for beginning the prosecution of a defendant. The time period begins when the alleged crime was committed. Generally, the more serious the crime, the longer the statute of limitations. For some crimes—like murder and child molestation, there's no time limit on when charges can be filed in Washington. The shortest criminal statute of limitations for felonies is three years.

    (Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.04.080 (2024).)

    Seeking Legal Help

    A felony conviction can have serious long-term consequences, even after you've served time in prison. Among other things, a felony record can make it difficult to obtain a professional license or a job. If you're facing felony charges, consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney who's experienced in this area can explain how the law applies to your situation, lay out your options, and help you get the best possible outcome under the circumstances—which might involve negotiating a favorable plea bargain if that's appropriate.

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