Washington Juvenile Deferred Disposition and Loss of Driving and Firearms Rights

In a Washington deferred disposition in a juvenile case, the juvenile stipulates to the admissibility of the facts in the police report, acknowledges the report will be entered a used to support a finding of guilt and impose disposition if they do not comply with the terms of supervision, waive the rights to speedy disposition and to call and confront witnesses, and acknowledge the direct consequences of a finding of guilty and of a disposition, if entered. The court then defers entry of an order of disposition and places the juvenile on community supervision, with any conditions deemed appropriate by the court.  At the end of the period of community supervision, the court determines if the juvenile is entitled to dismissal based on statutory requirements.  If so, the conviction is vacated and the court dismisses the case with prejudice.  If the court vacates the conviction, and the juvenile is at least 18 years old and has paid the full amount of restitution owed to the individual victim, the court also orders the case to be sealed. If the juvenile is not yet 18, the court will schedule an administrative sealing hearing within 30 days of the juvenile’s 18th birthday. If the juvenile is not entitled to dismissal, the court revokes the deferred disposition and enters an order of disposition.  RCW 13.40.127.

A juvenile who entered a deferred disposition for attempting to elude a pursuing police vehicle recently challenged the driver’s license suspension and firearms right revocation imposed upon him. Pursuant to RCW 46.20.285, the department of licensing revokes the license or permit of a person convicted of attempting to elude a police vehicle.  A juvenile’s right to possess a firearm is revoked if they are adjudicated guilty of any felony under RCW 9.41.040, including attempting to elude.   Case law has held that a juvenile is considered to be convicted when they enter into a deferred disposition.  A juvenile in deferred disposition who meets the requirements will have their license suspended or firearms rights revoked until the adjudication is vacated.

Washington counties may create alternative therapeutic court programs pursuant to RCW 2.30.030.  Therapeutic court programs allow juveniles to have their case dismissed after completing the program.  The case is removed from prosecution and the juvenile is not adjudicated guilty.  Because they are not adjudicated guilty, juveniles in therapeutic court programs do not face driver’s license suspension or firearms rights revocation.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the juvenile argued he was similarly situated to juvenile therapeutic court participants and there was no rational basis to treat him differently. He argued the different treatment between juvenile therapeutic court participants and juveniles in deferred disposition was an equal protection violation.

The appeals court found the juvenile failed to show the distinction between the juveniles in deferred disposition and those in therapeutic court programs  was purely arbitrary.  The appeals court concluded that adjudication of guilt, which occurs with deferred disposition but not therapeutic court programs, constitutes a rational basis for treating the juveniles differently regarding suspension of driving privileges and revocation of firearms rights.

The appeals court also found the different treatment was also rationally related to the purpose of the statutes. The appeals court noted that the purpose of driver’s license suspension and firearms rights revocation was safety.

Therapeutic court programs are intended to incentivize treatment for juveniles who commit crimes as a result of mental health issues or substance use disorders. The appeals court found the different treatment was rationally related to the statute’s purpose of ensuring treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Deferred disposition is a good option in many cases, but it does have consequences.  If your child is facing criminal charges, the experienced Seattle juvenile defense attorneys at Blair & Kim, PLLC, can advise you on your child’s rights and options.  Schedule a consultation by calling (206) 622-6562.


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