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State v. S.M.G.

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

July 1, 2019

S.M.G., JR., Respondent.

          VERELLEN, J.

         The State challenges the juvenile court's calculation of S.M.G.'s criminal history. Specifically, the State contends the court erred in excluding S.M.G.'s pending deferred disposition. This case turns on the definition of criminal history contained in RCW 13.40.020(8){b) of the Juvenile Justice Act (JJA). Because the plain meaning of section (8)(b) requires the court to exclude all deferred dispositions, including pending deferred dispositions, the court did not err when it excluded S.M.G.'s pending deferred disposition from his criminal history.

         Therefore, we affirm.


         In March 2018, the State charged S.M.G. with unlawful possession of methamphetamine with intent to manufacture or deliver and one count of misdemeanor harassment.[1] On September 17, 2018, S.M.G. pleaded guilty to the possession charge in exchange for the State dismissing the harassment charge.[2]

         At the time of imposing disposition, S.M.G. had a prior felony adjudication from 2016 and a pending deferred disposition from 2017. Over the State's objection, [3] the juvenile court calculated S.M.G.'s criminal history as 1 based on the 2016 adjudication.[4] The juvenile court declined the State's request to count the 2017deferred disposition as criminal history.[5] The juvenile court sentenced S.M.G. to a 15 to 36 week standard range commitment at the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration.[6] At the same hearing, the court also revoked the 2017 deferred disposition.[7]

         The State appeals.


         The State contends the juvenile court miscalculated S.M.G.'s criminal history. This case turns exclusively on RCW 13.40.020(8). Statutory interpretation is a question of law we review de novo.[8]

         When interpreting a statute, our "'objective is to determine the legislature's intent.'"[9] The first step is to examine the plain meaning of a statute. To determine the plain meaning, we must look to "the text of the statutory provision in question, as well as 'the context of the statute in which that provision is found, related provisions, and the statutory scheme as a whole.'"[10]

         "[I]f the meaning of a statute is plain on its face, we 'give effect to that plain meaning.'"[11] But if "the statute is susceptible to more than one reasonable interpretation, it is ambiguous."[12] If a statute is ambiguous, we may look to "'statutory construction, legislative history, and relevant case law for assistance in discerning legislative intent.'"[13]

         Under the JJA, in certain cases, "[t]he juvenile court may. . . continue the case for disposition for a period not to exceed one year from the date the juvenile is found guilty."[14] Any juvenile who agrees to a deferral of disposition shall:

(a) Stipulate to the admissibility of the facts contained in the written police report;
(b) Acknowledge that the report will be entered and used to support a finding of guilt and to impose a disposition if the juvenile fails to comply with terms of supervision;
(c) Waive the following rights to: (i) A speedy disposition; and (ii) call and confront witnesses; and
(d) Acknowledge the direct consequences of being found guilty and the direct consequences that will happen if an order of disposition is entered.[15]

         "Following the stipulation, acknowledgment, waiver, and entry of a finding or plea of quilt, the court shall defer entry of an order of disposition of the juvenile."[16]During the deferral period, the juvenile "shall be placed under community supervision" and "[t]he court may impose any conditions of supervision that it deems appropriate."[17] At the conclusion of the deferral period, "[i]f the court finds the juvenile is entitled to dismissal of the deferred disposition . . . the juvenile's conviction shall be vacated and the court shall dismiss the case with prejudice."[18]

         A deferred disposition may affect the court's calculation of the juvenile's criminal history at sentencing for a future offense. Generally, under the JJA, "[t]he standard range disposition for each offense is determined by . .. the prior adjudications and ... the current offense category."[19] To calculate the juvenile's criminal history, the juvenile court is directed to count "[e]ach prior felony adjudication ... as one point" and "[e]ach prior violation, misdemeanor, and gross misdemeanor adjudication ... as 1/4 point."[20]

"Criminal history" includes all criminal complaints against the respondent for which, prior to the commission of a current offense:
(a) The allegations were found correct by a court. If a respondent is convicted of two or more charges arising out of the same course of conduct, only the highest charge from among these shall count as an offense for the purposes of this chapter; or
(b) The criminal complaint was diverted by a prosecutor pursuant to the provisions of this chapter on agreement of the respondent and after an advisement to the respondent that the criminal complaint would be considered as part of the respondent's criminal history. A successfully completed deferred adjudication that was entered before July 1. 1998. or a deferred disposition shall not be considered part of the respondent's criminal history.[21]

         The State contends, under the final sentence of section (8)(b), the juvenile court is required to exclude only successfully completed deferred dispositions from a juvenile's criminal history. S.M.G. argues the ...

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