Life in Prison for Stealing $48: Rethinking Second-Degree Robbery as a Strike Offense in Washington State
The Washington State legislature should remove second-degree robbery as a final strike because of the large sentencing disparity between the POAA’s mandatory sentence of life without parole versus the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission’s sentencing range for this offense. But second-degree robbery should remain as a first or second strike offense to serve the goal of deterrence, and failing that, to ensure the incarceration of offenders whose crimes escalate in violence.
This Comment begins by discussing the history of three strikes legislation both nationally and in Washington State and explains why three strikes laws became popular in the mid-1990s. Part II also addresses the elements and sentencing of second-degree robbery under Washington’s current sentencing structure. Part III provides an overview of the sentencing process in Washington State, including the background of the Washington Sentencing Guidelines Commission and its goals; the role of both the governor and the Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board in granting clemency; and the severity of life in prison without parole. Part IV addresses why the POAA should be amended to better align with the reality of how Washington prosecutors use second-degree robbery as a strike offense. Part IV also assesses the disconnect between the outcomes and the goals behind three strikes laws, and the politics behind criminal sentencing legislation including Washington State Senate Bill 5292 and Senate Bill 5236.
Jennifer Cox Shapiro, Life in Prison for Stealing $48: Rethinking Second-Degree Robbery as a Strike Offense in Washington State, 34 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 935 (2011).