Criminal law involves prosecution by the government of a person for an act that has been classified as a crime. Civil cases, on the other hand, involve individuals and organizations seeking to resolve legal disputes. In a criminal case the state, through a prosecutor, initiates the suit, while in a civil case the victim brings the suit. Persons convicted of a crime may be incarcerated, fined, or both. However, persons found liable in a civil case may only have to give up property or pay money, but are not incarcerated.

In Washington there are three type of crimes:

1. Felonies are the most serious crimes and are divided into 3 classes ranging from the most serious A to the least serious C felonies. The maximum penalties range from five (5) years to life in prison. The Sentencing Reform Act, (SRA) is used for sentencing.

2. Gross Misdemeanors are crimes such as DUI, assault 4th degree (domestic violence) and theft 3rd (shop-lifting). These crimes are punishable by up to 365 days in jail and a fine of $5,000.00.

3. Misdemeanors are crimes such as driving while license suspended 3rd or unlawful possession of marijuana less than 40 grams. These crimes are punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1000.00 fine.

4. Juveniles may also commit the crimes listed above and are usually prosecuted through the juvenile justice system. Sentencing or punishment is based on a sentencing scheme very similar to the SRA.

-Types of Crimes
-Charging the Offense
-Domestic Violence
-Sex offender registration
-Traffic Infraction Information
  © 2003 James Franzen. All Rights Reserved.