Felony Sentencing: Not as Simple as Class A, B, or C. Your Attorney Needs to Know What They Are Doing!
When charged with a felony or major crime, it is normal for the first thought to be "how much time am I facing." The statutory maximum sentences for the three classes of felonies can be found in RCW 9A.20.021. http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=9A.20.021.
So, if you are charged with Second Degree Assault (a Class B Felony) you are facing up to ten years, right? Technically, yes, but that is not how sentencing is determined. Sentencing for classified felonies is ordinarily determined by using the 'Standard Sentencing Range.' The Standard Sentencing Range is determined by the intersection of two factors 1) your "Offender Score" and 2) the "Seriousness Level" of the alleged crime. Your Offender Score is calculated using your prior convictions, and the Seriousness Level is a fixed value.
If you have never been convicted of a felony, your Offender Score is going to be '0.' Second Degree Assault has a fixed Seriousness Level of '4.' The intersection of these two factors gives us a Standard Sentencing Range of 3 to 9 months, with a mid-range of 6 months, if convicted. A different person convicted of the exact same crime may be facing an entirely different sentence. For example, if s/he has an Offender core of '9,' and is charged with Second Degree Assault (still a Seriousness Level 4), the Standard Sentencing Range is 63 to 84 months, with a mid-range of 74 months. A judge may impose a sentence that is above or below the standard sentencing range, but certain criteria must be met.
It is IMPERATIVE that you have an attorney that knows how to ACCURATELY calculate your Offender Score. Mistakes do occur in this calculation, and you can see that such a miscalculation could potentially translate to a significantly longer sentence if convicted. DON'T MESS AROUND WITH THIS. You need an attorney who knows what they are doing. It is much easier to avoid a catastrophic error than it is to try to fix one that has occurred.