Dismissal of Information is Only Granted After Probation

State v. Hall
Court of Appeals of Washington, Division One
July 12, 1983

Holding: Dismissal of information or indictment pursuant to RCW 9.95.240 shall be granted only after a defendant has complied with the statutory requirements of probation.

Why This Case is Important: Pursuant to RCW 9.95.240, a court may dismiss a defendant’s information or indictment after probation has been completed. RCW 9.95.240 states that after a defendant has fulfilled the conditions of probation or if she has been discharged from probation, the court in its discretion may withdraw her plea of guilty or set aside the verdict of guilty. Such a dismissal serves to remove the disabilities and penalties that were placed on the defendant as a result of the conviction or plea of guilt.

A trial court does not have the authority on its own to grant a dismissal of information or indictment. The Washington Legislature drafts the procedures and rules for dismissal or suspension of sentence, and the courts must abide by them This case establishes that trial courts cannot go outside the parameters outlined by Washington statutory provisions when determining whether to dismiss an indictment or information pursuant to section 9.95.240.

A trial court’s dismissal of defendant’s information or indictment must follow the defendant’s probationary period. A defendant is given probation as an act of judicial clemency. It is a means to give the defendant a chance to show she is rehabilitated, so that she can once again join the community as a productive and law-abiding citizen. As mentioned above, a defendant who successfully completes probation may remove the disabilities and penalties of the conviction or plea of guilt. Removal of disabilities and penalties is a great reward for the former-defendant, as it allows her to move forward with her life and take advantage of positive opportunities that come her way.

Courts however must abide by the statutory requirements in imposing probation, dismissing probation, and ultimately dismissing a defendant’s information or indictment. Probation may be granted in the discretion of the court. Thus, not every defendant will be granted probation. When a court does choose to grant probation, it must order the probationer to report to the secretary of corrections. If the probationer does not report, she is not in compliance with the statutory mandates of probation.

Furthermore, the purpose of probation is to rehabilitate the defendant. The time served during probation is meant to teach the offender and allow the probationer to work towards rehabilitation. The amount of time an individual is on probation must correctly reflect the amount of time it would take for her to learn and attain rehabilitation. As such, because RCW 9.95.240 follows the successful completion of probation, dismissal pursuant to section 9.95.240 serves as recognition that the probationer is rehabilitated, and may therefore reap the benefits of her rehabilitation. A court that grants a probationary period for three hours, which is what the court did in this case, and subsequently orders dismissal pursuant to RCW 9.95.240, violates the purpose of probation, and thereby does not conform to statutory requirements.

It is therefore imperative that courts follow the statutory requirements for imposing probation, discharging probation, and dismissing information or indictment pursuant to RCW 9.95.240.

Facts of This Case: The defendant in this case was convicted by the trial judge of second-degree robbery. The trial court sentenced the defendant to probation for three hours. After the three hours, the court signed an order of dismissal pursuant to RCW 9.95.240. The State appealed, and the Washington Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for resentencing.

The court of appeals stated that trial court’s authority to suspend a sentence or defer the imposition or execution of a sentence must be granted by the state Legislature. The court of appeals held that it was mandatory to follow these statutory requirements. The court determined that pursuant to statutory requirements, a defendant who is placed on probation must report to the secretary of corrections. The court of appeals held that this mandatory requirement arose from the purpose of probation, which was to teach the defendant discipline and push them towards rehabilitation. The court of appeals thereby determined that the trial court erred in its procedures of implementing probation because it failed to order the defendant to report to the secretary of corrections.

The court of appeals also determined that the trial court erred in dismissing the indictment pursuant to RCW 9.95.240. The court of appeals stated that section 9.95.240 was part of the rehabilitation scheme of probation, since dismissal of indictment or information is only followed after successful completion of probation. As such, the court of appeals held that a three-hour probationary period did not reflect that the defendant was rehabilitated. The court of appeals therefore concluded that the trial court also erred in setting aside the finding of guilty pursuant to RCW 9.95.240.

The court of appeals therefore reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to the lower court for resentencing.

Key Language: RCW 9.95.219 reflects clearly the legislative intent that the granting of probation would include the imposition of such conditions, which in the court’s discretion will contribute to teaching personal discipline and the recognition of personal responsibility that are universally recognized as being necessary to the rehabilitation of the offender.

A review of the provisions of RCW 9.95.240 makes it clear that those statutes contemplate, first, the imposition of conditions of probation which have some logical connection with the ultimate objective of rehabilitation and, subsequently, satisfactory performance of those conditions by the probationer.

Where the period of probation is so short that the objective of the statutory scheme is impossible to attain, the resulting dismissal violates the statute because there has been no probation, which would qualify the probation for the benefits of the statute.

Expert Advise: : “In most states, the successful completion or discharge from probation signifies rehabilitation. In Washington, this means a defendant may be granted a set-aside of her guilty plea or conviction after she successfully completes probation. A set aside will remove the penalties and disabilities of a conviction, allowing a defendant to make positive strides in her life.” Attorney Mathew Higbee.

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

Find more legal articles in our articles database.