Indeterminate Sentences for Sex Offenses

On September 1, 2001, one of the most drastic changes for sex offense sentencing took effect in Washington. The Legislature voted in the 2001 Legislative Session to authorize indeterminate sentences for sex offenders, and placed those convicted under the authority of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB). What does that mean? It means that judges who sentence a person for those sex offenses are now setting the minimum sentence only. The ISRB must approve your release and that isn't easy to achieve. You can be held up to the maximum for that offense, which means that for may persons convicted of sex offenses in Washington there is a very real possibility they will spend the rest of their life in prison for a single offense.

At The Meryhew Law Group, when we represent a client who could be potentially facing a life prison sentence, we advocate tirelessly for you. Our defense team seeks out expert consultation when necessary, conducts an extensive investigation, and makes all of our lawyers available to you for counsel and support when you need it.

The following information is provided to answer some common questions about indeterminate sentences for sex offenders, also known as ISRB sentences.

How Does An Indeterminate Sentence Work?

When a person is convicted of certain more serious sex offenses, or if they have a prior sex offense conviction, a judge may be required to give them an indeterminate sentence. What this means is the judge will set a minimum sentence that the person must serve, but the sentence could be as long as the maximum sentence for that offense. For Class A offenses this means that the Court will set a minimum sentence, but the person could serve the rest of their life in prison unless they can persuade the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board that they are safe to release to the community. An inmate with an indeterminate sentence is entitled to a hearing in front of the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board, but they cannot be represented by an attorney at this hearing unless they are intellectually delayed or in other rare circumstances. The ISRB can release a person at that hearing if they believe they are not likely to commit a sex offense when released, or they can continue to extend the sentence in increments of up to five years, and up to life in prison.

To which crimes does the ISRB law apply?

The ISRB law applies to certain sex offenses, listed in the next section, which occur on September 1, 2001 or later.

What are the maximum terms for indeterminate sentences for sex offenses?

It depends on the class of the conviction:

Charges which can get you up to Life in Prison are these Class A felony sex offenses:

  • Rape in the First Degree
  • Rape in the Second Degree
  • Rape of a Child in the First Degree
  • Rape of a Child in the Second Degree
  • Child Molestation in the First Degree
  • Indecent Liberties with Forcible Compulsion
  • Murder in the First Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Murder in the Second Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Homicide by Abuse with Sexual Motivation
  • Kidnapping in the First Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Kidnapping in the Second Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Assault in the First Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Assault in the Second Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Assault of a Child in the First Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • Burglary in the First Degree with Sexual Motivation
  • And, for certain crimes listed above, the attempt to commit those crimes

What is the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board?

The Indeterminate Sentence Review Board is comprised of five members appointed by the Governor to serve five-year terms. They review all of the materials related to an offender and then hold the hearing in order to decide whether a sex offender is likely to commit another offense when released. If the ISRB finds that a person is likely to commit another sex offense if released on conditions of release then they can continue to hold the person in prison up the maximum term for their offense of conviction. A person may only get a chance to ask for release every five years. Those who have not completed sex offender treatment while in prison, or who have denied committing their offenses and gone to trial, or who have multiple victims, may never be released.

I've been charged with a sex offense that is eligible for an indeterminate sentence. How can the Meryhew Law Group help me?

At The Meryhew Law Group, we treat sex offenses where our clients are facing indeterminate sentences on class A felonies as the potential life sentences that they truly are. We will conduct a thorough investigation of the allegations, consult with nationally recognized forensic experts when appropriate, and carefully prepare your case to raise as many legal issues as we can find. Because of our thorough approach to these cases, we have had many successes with these cases at trial, and in obtaining dismissals, and negotiating for reductions to non-indeterminate charges. Contact us today at (206) 264-1590 for a free initial consultation!