Washington Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

The basics of Washington's misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor classifications, penalties, and sentencing.

By , Legal Editor
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated December 01, 2023

In Washington, as in most states, misdemeanors are crimes that carry potential jail sentences of less than a year. The state has two classes of these crimes—misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors.

How Washington Classifies and Punishes Misdemeanors

Washington misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors include a wide range of offenses from low-level property crimes to assault, theft, and stalking. Less serious offenses fall under the category of misdemeanor (sometimes called simple misdemeanors), while more serious offenses are gross misdemeanors.

Misdemeanor Crimes in Washington

Some examples of Washington misdemeanors include:

Misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of 90 days of jail time and a $1,000 fine.

Gross Misdemeanor Crimes in Washington

Some examples of Washington gross misdemeanors include:

  • assault in the fourth degree
  • cyberharassment
  • jury tampering
  • obstructing a law enforcement officer
  • protection order violations
  • theft in the third degree (value less than $750), and
  • vehicle prowling in the second degree.

Gross misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of 364 days of jail time and a $5,000 fine.

When Misdemeanors Become Felonies in Washington

In certain cases, Washington law increases misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor sentences to felony-level offenses. For example, crimes that target vulnerable or protected individuals, such as children, elderly adults, or first responders, may carry enhanced penalties. Repeat gross misdemeanors may also result in harsher felony penalties, such as repeat stalking and harassment offenses.

Hate Crime Offenses in Washington

Committing certain hate crimes, including assault and property damage, results in a separate felony charge (on top of the charges for the underlying offense). So a person who commits a gross misdemeanor assault can end up with an additional class C felony charge if the crime was motivated by a victim's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or disability.

(Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.20.010, 9A.20.021, 9A.36.041, 9A.36.080, 9A.46.110, 9A.52.080, 9A.52.100, 9A.56.050, 9A.72.140, 9A.76.020, 9A.84.020, 9A.84.030, 9A.88.010, 9A.88.030, 9A.88.110, 9A.90.120 (2023).)

How Misdemeanor Sentencing Works in Washington

Judges have several options when it comes to misdemeanor sentencing, including ordering jail time, fines, and restitution.

Sentencing Alternatives to Jail

The judge may also order sentencing alternatives, such as probation, or place the defendant on home detention or electronic monitoring.

For certain offenses, a defendant can ask the judge for deferred prosecution. Deferred prosecution typically allows the defendant to seek treatment for substance use orders, behavioral health issues, or domestic violence behaviors. The judge holds off entering a judgment in the case and will dismiss the charges if the defendant successfully completes treatment and other conditions.

Restitution as an Alternative to a Fine

In some cases where a defendant gained money or property from a misdemeanor, the judge may order the defendant to pay restitution to the victim instead of a fine. The restitution amount may be as much as twice the amount of the defendant's gain from the crime.

(Wash. Rev. Code §§ 9A.20.030, 10.05.020, 10.05.120 (2023).)

Statute of Limitations for Misdemeanors in Washington

A criminal statute of limitations is the deadline for bringing charges against a defendant. In Washington, gross misdemeanors may not be prosecuted more than two years after the date of the alleged crime. The statute of limitations for misdemeanors is one year.

(Wash. Rev. Code § 9A.04.080 (2023).)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

If you're charged with any crime, contact a criminal defense attorney in Washington to discuss your case. An experienced attorney can tell you how your case is likely to fare in court depending on the applicable law, the facts, and the assigned judge and prosecutor. With an attorney's help, you can hopefully obtain the best outcome possible under the circumstances.

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