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State v. Petterson

Supreme Court of Washington

February 1, 2018


          OWENS, J.

         Erik Petterson has been serving a term of community custody under a special sex offender sentencing alternative (SSOSA) for over 15 years. RCW 9.94A.670. After Petterson successfully completed treatment, the court removed most of his community custody conditions. The Washington State Department of Corrections (Department) now seeks to ensure that while Petterson is on community custody, he is required to comply with department-imposed conditions. At issue here is whether courts must require this condition and whether courts have authority to modify community custody conditions after terminating treatment.


         Petterson received a sentencing alternative under the SSOSA statute when he pleaded guilty to child molestation in the first degree in 2002. Clerks Papers (CP) at 6-12. The superior court ordered 68 months of confinement with 62 months suspended for the maximum term of life. Id. In accordance with the SSOSA statute, the suspended sentence was conditioned on community custody for the length of the maximum term. Id. For Petterson, this meant a lifetime of community custody. Id. One of the conditions required Petterson to comply with any conditions imposed by the Department (department-compliance condition). Id.

         The department-compliance condition was suspended after a series of proceedings from 2005 to 2008. In October 2005, Petterson appeared for his treatment termination hearing, which is mandated by the SSOSA statute as a time to review community custody conditions and treatment. RCW 9.94A.670.[1] The court found that Petterson had successfully completed treatment and, upon a joint request, terminated his treatment. CP at 14-16. The court mistakenly also terminated his community custody as a result of a scrivener's error. Id. The mistake was subsequently discovered, and the State filed a motion to amend the order in December 2006. CP at 17. The court granted the amendment in March 2007, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. CP at 22-24, 35-39.

         The superior court held a hearing in April 2008 to determine next steps in light of the Court of Appeals' decision. Verbatim Report of Proceedings (VRP) (Apr. 18, 2008) at 4-10. At this hearing, Petterson moved to modify his community custody. Id. The court deferred a final decision until Community Corrections Officer (CCO) David Payne could be present. Id. at 11-12. The court held the next hearing on May 5, 2008, with CCO Payne but ultimately decided to further delay the decision to allow the Attorney General's Office to be present. VRP (May 5, 2008) at 11-12. The court reconvened on May 30, 2008, but no one from the Attorney General's Office appeared. VRP (May 30, 2008) at 1. The State told the court that the prosecutor's office had communicated with the Department and the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board and neither body was taking a position. Id. at 4. The court ruled that it had the authority to modify community custody conditions and signed an order suspending all of Petterson's conditions except for two: (1) obey all laws, and (2) update the Department of any change in address or phone number. CP at 40.

         Since that series of proceedings, Petterson has maintained strict compliance with his remaining conditions. CP at 105-18. He also reported to his CCO 13 times between 2009 and 2015 even though he was not required to do so. Id. The court ordered that he be removed from the sex offender registry in 2013 after the Department filed a report detailing Petterson's compliance. CP at 43. Despite his record of complete compliance and successfully completing treatment, the Department's position on Petterson's conditions drastically changed when he moved to King County and his case was transferred to a new CCO.

         Petterson moved to King County in 2014, and his new CCO proposed reinstating a slew of community custody conditions, including going back to treatment despite his graduation from treatment nearly nine years earlier. CP at 105, 121-36. Petterson declined to sign the new conditions, citing the 2008 order suspending most conditions. CP at 136. The Department then filed an amicus motion to reinstate the department-compliance condition, arguing the court did not have the authority to remove it in 2008. CP at 54-64. The court granted the motion, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. CP at 142-46; State v. Petterson, 198 Wn.App. 673, 394 P.3d 385 (2017). The Court of Appeals held that the court did not have authority to modify any community custody conditions in 2008 because the treatment termination hearing occurred in 2005, and that regardless of the timing, the department-compliance condition was mandatory and could never be suspended. Petterson, 198 Wn.App. at 682-84. The Court of Appeals went even further and held that after final judgment and sentencing, the court loses jurisdiction to the Department. Id. at 681-82.

         Petterson petitioned for review, which this court granted. State v. Petterson, 189 Wn.2d 1001, 400 P.3d 1257 (2017). We hold that while the department- compliance condition is statutorily mandatory, the court retains jurisdiction during the life of a SSOSA and has authority to modify discretionary conditions.


         1. Did the court have authority to modify community custody conditions at the 2008 hearing?

         2. Do courts have authority to remove the department-compliance condition?

         3. Do courts lose jurisdiction to the Department after imposing a SSOSA and lack authority to modify conditions ...

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