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Washington Supreme Court Announces Effective Date of Certificate of Discharge Is Date Offender Completes All Sentence Requirements

by Chad Marks

The Supreme Court of Washington ruled that the effective date of a certificate of discharge (“COD”) for an offender who is not in Department of Corrections (“DOC”) custody at the time the sentence is completed is the date the offender completes all requirements of the sentence.

Waylon James Hubbard entered a plea of guilty to second-degree possession of stolen property in 2004. The sentencing court imposed a short term of imprisonment with 120 hours of community service and ordered Hubbard to pay legal financial obligations. By February 25, 2013, Hubbard had filled all of his sentence requirements, including paying his financial obligations.

On April 6, 2016, Hubbard petitioned for a COD under RCW 9.94A.637(1)(c). As part of his petition, he requested that the effective date of his COD be February 25, 2013, the date on which he satisfied the terms of his sentence. The State objected to that request, arguing that the court could not enter an effective date that predates the date the court received notice of sentence completion by the offender. In Hubbard’s case, that date is April 6, 2016, the date he filed his petition for COD. The superior court rejected the State’s argument and granted Hubbard’s request for an effective date of February 25, 2013, the date Hubbard completed all conditions of the sentence imposed.

The over three-year difference between the two proposed effective dates is of great significance. Certain committed crimes are eligible to be vacated under RCW 9.94A.640. Hubbard’s class C felony conviction is an eligible offense.

Under the statute, an eligible conviction can be vacated after “five years have passed since the date the applicant was discharged under RCW 9.94A.637.” RCW 9.94A.640(3) provides that the effect of a conviction being vacated is that for all purposes the offender is treated as though he or she “has never been convicted of that crime.” This obviously has an enormous impact on a person’s ability to obtain employment, housing, and reintegrate into society. 

The State appealed the superior court’s ruling to the Court of Appeals, which agreed with the State and remanded the case to the superior court for entry of a COD with an effective date of April 6, 2016. Hubbard then appealed to the Supreme Court of Washington, which reversed.

The Court noted under RCW 9.94A.637(1)(a), serious offenders who complete their sentences under DOC supervision have the benefit of near immediate notification to the superior court and discharge. However, unsupervised offenders must navigate the court notification process on their own. The Court recognized that this may result in a significant disparity between serious offenders under DOC custody and unsupervised offenders.

In ruling in favor of Hubbard, the Court made it clear that RCW 9.94A.637 is not intended to burden unsupervised offenders with significant delays in discharge simply because of their unsupervised status. The Court explained that it “will not read into the statute an unintended consequence that results in grave disparities between the effective date of a COD issued” to offenders under DOC supervision and those not under such supervision. Thus, the Court held “the effective date of a COD issued to an offender not under the supervision of the DOC is the date the offender became eligible for discharge….”

Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded to the superior court for reinstatement of its COD dated effective February 25, 2013. See: State v. Hubbard, 428 P.3d 1192 (Wash. 2018). 

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State v. Hubbard




 

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