What is Community Custody?

Community Custody | A Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective on Community Custody | Parole | State Supervision.

As criminal defense attorneys | lawyers, we know that over 90% of cases are resolved short of trial.  From our perspective, resolution can come in the form of dismissal, an alternative to prosecution or pleading to a lesser charge.  This page is about what happens if you do plead or are found guilty and are put on community custody, a new term for parole.  In our opinion, no one should walk into community custody without knowing what, exactly, they are dealing with.  Doing this takes around 1-2 hours of discussion, but we have some general opinions we do not mind sharing.

State Supervision via Community Custody in Washington | The New Parole

When a person pleads or is found guilty of a felony and is sentenced in Washington State, they become labeled an offender and are monitored for a period of time by a state official.  This state monitoring process is called community custody, a term that has replaced what used to be called parole.  As criminal defense attorneys | lawyers, we know offenders sentenced on many felony drug offenses and a variety of other felonies, DOSA or other alternative based sentence will be placed under terms of supervision via community custody conditions.  It is essential to understand how to avoid being classified as a problem. Problems with community custody can result in tightened scrutiny, more confinement than the original sentence and stress.  It is good to keep in mind that due to budget cuts and the realization that enforcing every minor violation was not working, strict enforcement for minor violations appears to be down in our opinion. However, realize that if the “magic” line is crossed, minor violations that one thought the community custody officials forgot about will be added to a subsequent violation hearing.  These bundled violations do not look good so do not misunderstand how harsh this system can be because a minor violation appeared to be overlooked.  We counsel our clients on how to keep their probation | community corrections officer happy and help our client understand what, and what not, a community custody officer can do.  The statute that controls most of these conditions is RCW 9.94A.703

Our years of experience as criminal defense lawyers have taught us how to counsel our clients, work with Community Corrections Officers, (CCO’s), or go to court and speak with a judge when necessary.  We go into the pre-sentence interviews with the clients and prepare them for this interview prior to the interview with the CCO.  The best advice we can provide to our clients is that a happy community corrections officer will not harass you or clamp down on you once you demonstrate compliance, follow the judge’s orders and do what they ask.  If you get off to a good start and show the CCO you can be trusted and are not a threat to the community, they will be happy and won’t ask the court to add on more conditions or spend a lot of time examining your life.  An unhappy CCO can cause you an incredible amount of grief and sometimes there is neither rhyme nor reason for the situation.  The client will need to try and change this situation as soon as possible if they want the CCO to back off and stay out of jail.  Our firm has the skilled litigators and attorneys that can help with this situation. Community correction officers have a lot of power and are not afraid to use it.  Do not get in a power struggle with your CCO: talk to your lawyer first and use the court system to address the problem.

RCW 9.94A.703  Community Custody Conditions.

In Washington State, when a court sentences a person to a term of community custody, the court shall impose conditions of community custody as provided in this section. There are three types of conditions the court can impose: mandatory, waivable, and discretionary.   This is where an experienced attorney can really help an offender: this area of law is subject to frequent litigation.  The mandatory conditions are exactly that and MUST be imposed.  However, when it comes down to the waive-able and discretionary conditions, there is some room for negotiation. Someone familiar with the process can potentially save a client and their family an incredible amount of grief, time, and money, by trying to negotiate terms prior to sentencing and being prepared to present them at sentencing.  RCW 9.94A.703 provides:

(1) Mandatory conditions. As part of any term of community custody, the court will impose the following conditions on all offenders placed on community custody:

(a) Require the offender to inform the department of court-ordered treatment upon request by the department;

(b) Require the offender to comply with any conditions imposed by the department under RCW 9.94A.704;  

(c) If the offender was sentenced under RCW 9.94A.507, related to sex offenders, for an offense listed in RCW 9.94A.507 (1)(a), and the victim of the offense was under eighteen years of age at the time of the offense, prohibit the offender from residing in a community protection zone;

(d) If the offender was sentenced under RCW 9A.36.120, assault of a child, prohibit the offender from serving in any paid or volunteer capacity where he or she has control or supervision of minors under the age of thirteen.

(2) Waivable conditions. Unless waived by the court, as part of any term of community custody, the court shall order an offender to:

(a) Report to and be available for contact with the assigned community corrections officer as directed;

(b) Work at department-approved education, employment, or community restitution, or any combination thereof;

(c)  Refrain from possessing or consuming controlled substances except pursuant to lawfully issued prescriptions;

(d) Pay supervision fees as determined by the department; and

(e) Obtain prior approval of the department for the offender’s residence location and living arrangements.

(3) Discretionary conditions. As part of any term of community custody, the court may order an offender to:

(a) Remain within, or outside of, a specified geographical boundary;

(b) Refrain from direct or indirect contact with the victim of the crime or a specified class of individuals;

(c) Participate in crime-related treatment or counseling services;

(d) Participate in rehabilitative programs or otherwise perform affirmative conduct reasonably related to the circumstances of the offense, the offender’s risk of reoffending, or the safety of the community;

(e) Refrain from consuming alcohol; or

(f) Comply with any crime-related prohibitions.

RCW Community Custody — Commencement

From a criminal defense attorney’s/lawyer’s perspective, community custody conditions are part of the process of dealing with the consequences of a criminal conviction and are a field of landmines that an offender must avoid.  Initially, the conditions will take some getting used to doing and may seem harsh but, you are not in prison/jail and most of are limited duration.  This is where the offender has to turn the other cheek and do everything they can to demonstrate good behavior and no attitude.  Remember, it is better to have a happy Community Corrections Officer than one who has made it a personal mission to send you back to prison. Remember, the sooner that you get off community custody, pay fines and resolve your crime completely, the sooner you can move on with your life and perhaps, at a future point in time, if possible, vacate your felony.  A good criminal defense attorney will consider this when negotiating your case.

Per Washington law, community custody begins either upon completion of the term of confinement or, at the time of sentencing if no term of confinement is ordered.  Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the conditions of community custody go into effect as of the date of sentencing.

Typical Problem Areas

Community Custody – Firearm Violation

If you are convicted of a felony in Washington, you are NOT ALLOWED TO POSSESS A FIREARM.  There are strict regulations surrounding this issue and every offender should realize: unless the court that revoked your right to possess a firearm has restored that right, you cannot be in possession of, around, near, or in an establishment where firearms are present.

This means you should not be at a private residence if firearms are present, you should not be in a car if firearms are present, and you should not be at a gun range.  If you are caught violating this condition not only do you expose yourself to being taken into custody till a judge gets around to hearing your case but you can also be charged with a felon in possession of a firearm which is a violation of the Uniform Firearms Act which carries hard time in prison.  The definitions surrounding constructive possession, explosives, and firearms are very broad so the offender should beware.  Under RCW 9.94A.706(1) An offender’s actual or constructive possession of firearms, ammunition, or explosives shall be reported to local law enforcement or local prosecution for consideration of new charges and subject to sanctions under two statutes, RCW 9.94A.633 or 9.94A.737.

Community custody- Access to Mental Health Records

Under Washington Revised Code, the Department of Corrections is authorized to access additional information, about an offender to ensure the safety of the community and to aid with compliance and hopefully the rehabilitation of the offender.

If an offender violates the terms and conditions of the DOSA and or community custody a warrant will be issued for their arrest and they will be taken into custody.

RCW 9.94A.722- Court –Required records disclosures

When an offender receiving court-ordered mental health or chemical dependency treatment or treatment ordered by the department of corrections and enforced by the community corrections officer, the offender must disclose to the mental health or chemical dependency treatment provider whether he or she is subject to supervision by the department of corrections. If an offender has received relief from disclosure pursuant to RCW 9.94A.562, 70.96A.155, or 71.05.132, the offender must provide the mental health or chemical dependency treatment provider with a copy of the order granting the relief.

As you can see, the sentencing guidelines and enhancements that dictate how much jail or prison time the court must impose in the event there is a conviction are complicated.  The criminal defense lawyers | attorneys in our office have handled an enormous number of complicated cases in the criminal arena over the course of our lengthy criminal law careers. We are a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament. Our lawyers know that criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports claim our clients hire us because they want staunch and effective counsel who take the time to make sure their rights are protected.

Knowing how to navigate the legal system and criminal justice process is the most important skill you can possess when defending yourself against a drug offense.  Whether our role is as legal counsel, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience fighting and resolving cases with our clients’ best interests in mind.  Choosing the right counsel for your case is essential.   Consultations are free but a poor choice in counsel is not.  Call us at 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

Robert Rhodes

With a successful background in law, courtrooms, wrestling, rugby and jujitsu, Robert Rhodes’s nature is well-suited for argument and litigation. Mr. Rhodes knows how to talk clearly and directly to his clients, adversaries and to the Court. His common sense, straight talk and experience put his clients immediately at ease. Mr. Rhodes does not do anything half way and you will sense this when you meet him. Read more >>