Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative | DOSA

The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative | DOSA. A Washington Criminal Defense Lawyer | Attorney’s Perspective on The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative | DOSA.  Residential and Prison based alternatives for those whose addiction has lead to serious legal problems.

When someone has criminal problems that involve drugs or alcohol in Washington, our criminal system has a couple of alternatives to prosecution, hefty prison sentences and creating lengthy conviction histories.  Aside from winning at trial, winning on motions, negotiating, entering drug court, or using the Parenting Sentencing Alternative, in Washington State, clients and their lawyers should explore and discuss the Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative, commonly called a DOSA by those familiar with the Washington criminal system.  As criminal defense attorneys, part of our job is taking the time to have the frank discussions so that clients and families can make the right and informed decision.   

Interest in alternatives to conviction can be driven by a variety of reasons: from recognition that a problem is out of control, dealing with it is worth it on multiple levels, the reduction in sentence is interesting or a treatment program will look better for a client’s professional license or future career. As criminal defense lawyers | attorneys, we have seen good clients and their families struggle with almost every form of drug addiction and the inevitable criminal charges or convictions that come with it.  Be it opioids, cocaine, alcohol, methamphetamine, or weed, “it is hard to get enough of something that almost worksand for an unlucky percentage of the population, generally due to a combination of biology, environment or development, usage goes from recreational or experimental to out of control.   Treatment modalities vary but Washington State, like most others, recognizes certain principles of treatment apply to drug use.  

We have seen addiction lead to assaults, domestic violence and, of course, a wide variety of drug, theft and property crimes.  We have seen clients from every walk of life face criminal convictions and prison because of drug and substance abuse or addiction.  We have seen multiple prison sentences have no effect on behavior; however, we have also seen a first criminal charge or conviction completely change a person’s direction, life and relationships with drugs. In our experience, a lot depends on patience, firm boundaries, good counsel, familial support, and of course, most importantly, the attitude and goals of the individual. The criminal defense lawyers | attorneys in our office are goal centric and client centric. With that in mind, if our clients meet with us and identify clear motivations and goals, we are ideal counsel and we do all we can to help achieve them.

The Drug Sentencing Alternative is best suited for those truly interested in change and are open to help from others. At minimum, this program involves a lot of treatment, court appearances and meetings. An individual who is in this program will have a hard time managing the demands of this schedule alone so some form of familial support is best.  A DOSA is not to be confused with Adult Drug CourtMental Health Court, Parenting Sentencing Alternative or Veterans Treatment Court.  DOSAs reduce significant amounts of jail or prison time to treatment but do not avoid a conviction.

A detailed discussion about DOSA sentences with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney | lawyer is a 2-3 hour process, but some of the major practical points from the authorizing Washington Code sections include:

DOSA stands for drug offender sentencing alternative and it is a sentencing alternative that has been designed by the legislature for individuals who want to try and address their addiction issues vs. spend all their sentenced time in jail or prison.  This alternative can be done while in prison, in a rehabilitation facility, out of custody, or a combination of these depending on factors that come into play based on individual circumstances. Not everyone is eligible for a DOSA based sentencing alternative and certain criteria must be met.  Not everyone is suited for a DOSA sentence and you and your defense lawyer | attorney should approach it cautiously using experience and wisdom in deciding what is the right thing to do.  The defense, the prosecutor, or the court can bring a motion for a DOSA.

In a nutshell, the judge has total discretion to order the Drug Sentencing Alternative | DOSA and in doing so will require an evaluation and detailed information about any prospective offender who is interested in entering this program. In addition, qualifying for the program may require work on the part of your criminal defense lawyer | attorney to make sure that the charges you plead to qualify. Anyone considering this option must be able to openly admit addiction and expect to have his or her life and decision to enter this program questioned by the court.  Your lawyer will be essential in preparing you for this process.  Removal from the program puts you back in prison for the remainder of your sentence so expect a lot of frank discussions because the decision should not be undertaken lightly.

What is a DOSA?

The Drug Sentencing Alternative | DOSA is for users not dealers, although there is an exception for “a small quantity of the particular controlled substance as determined by the judge upon consideration of such factors as the weight, purity, packaging, sale price, and street value of the controlled substance. If you were caught moving a lot of weight, you may not qualify even if this was to pay for addiction. In some ways, this is terribly unfair as users often deal to support their habit(s); however, the law is the law.  There is some flexibility but not much.

There are two options under the DOSA program.  A Residential Treatment Based Option and a Prison Based Treatment Option.   One should also note that in addition to the initial treatment requirements offenders will also be placed on community custody.  Any violation of the terms of either the rehabilitation/treatment facility or community custody conditions can lead to immediate revocation by the court of the DOSA with the offender cuffed and led off to complete the full sentence they thought they avoided.  This sentencing alternative is an opportunity and should be treated as such or the offender will end up doing far more jail time than they ever would have from the outset.  Again, this route is not for everyone and should not be entertained lightly.

In general, the prison based DOSA is for those who are facing a lot of time and the residential based is where people are not.   In practice, however, effective and experienced defense attorneys know that prosecutors can choose which program to avail a person to based on how they decide to charge and prosecute a case.   Sometimes a prosecutor finds the facts such that they think the defendant cannot or will not be a good candidate for the residential option, or believes the result of the program is too “light” for the facts and so will charge in a way to prevent this from being explored.  Effective defense counsel know this and will proactively create and raise issues that sway opinions and flesh out stories such that prosecutors can reconsider their viewpoint.  It is important to keep in mind that often, in these situations, the prosecutor will heavily consider the victim’s opinion and viewpoint.  

The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative | DOSA | Residential Based

RCW 9.94A.660 is the statute that sets forth the eligibility requirements, conditions, and regulations for an offender convicted of a drug offense who wants to take advantage of the Drug offender sentencing alternative. If the sentencing court determines that the offender is eligible for an alternative sentence under this section and that the alternative sentence is appropriate, the court shall waive imposition of a sentence within the standard sentence range and impose a sentence consisting of either a prison-based alternative under RCW 9.94A.662 or a residential chemical dependency treatment-based alternative under RCW 9.94A.664. The residential chemical dependency treatment-based alternative is only available if the midpoint of the standard range (how long you could be sent to prison) is twenty-four months or less.  This is an area where an experienced attorney will know to try to help out by negotiating a lesser charge when necessary to keep the mid-point at 24 months or less thereby keeping the residential option open.

In order to assist the court in making its determination, the court may order the department to complete either or both a risk assessment report and a chemical dependency screening report. The offender needs to authorize the release of medical and if applicable mental health records, contents of future evaluations, and agree to complete whatever terms and conditions the court decides to impose. If the court is considering imposing a sentence under the residential chemical dependency treatment-based alternative, the court may order an examination of the offender by the department.  To enter the program, you are admitting you have a problem, letting the court view your medical history and agreeing to go into whatever treatment program the court decides to impose.  There have been many DOSA success stories but there have also been many failures.  As defense attorneys, we take the time to counsel our clients, speak to them in crisis and help them, but, the hard truth is, no matter how hard we try, no one is in control of our clients but our clients.

The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative | DOSA | Prison Based

There are additional conditions that have been set forth by the legislature for all offenders who participate in the Prison Based DOSA program. These additional conditions are set forth in RCW 9.94A.662 and are as follows:

(1) A sentence for a prison-based special drug offender sentencing alternative shall include:

     (a) A period of total confinement in a state facility for one-half the midpoint of the standard sentence range or twelve months, whichever is greater;

     (b) One-half the midpoint of the standard sentence range as a term of community custody, which must include appropriate substance abuse treatment in a program that has been approved by the division of alcohol and substance abuse of the department of social and health services;

      (c) Crime-related prohibitions, including a condition not to use illegal controlled substances;

      (d) A requirement to submit to urinalysis or other testing to monitor that status; and

     (e) A term of community custody pursuant to Washington Law to be imposed upon the failure to complete or administrative termination from the special drug offender sentencing alternative program.

(2) During incarceration in the state facility, offenders sentenced under this section shall undergo a comprehensive substance abuse assessment and receive, within available resources, treatment services appropriate for the offender. The treatment services shall be designed by the division of alcohol and substance abuse of the department of social and health services, in cooperation with the department of corrections.

(3) If the department finds that conditions of community custody have been willfully violated, the offender may be reclassified to serve the remaining balance of the original sentence. An offender who fails to complete the program or who is administratively terminated from the program shall be reclassified to serve the unexpired term of his or her sentence as ordered by the sentencing court.

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 interested in helping clients and families pursue sentencing alternatives under the right set of facts and will fight vigorously to achieve that result. We are a unique blend of courtroom experience, knowledge, skills and temperament.  We have fought for our clients over the prosecutor’s objection and have convinced the court that our client should be placed in a DOSA based on their unique situation.  Our lawyers know criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports claim and our clients hire us because they want staunch and effective counsel who take the time to make sure their rights are protected. 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 206-708-7852 to set an appointment and 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 >>