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Life in Prison for Stealing $48? Rethinking Second Degree Robbery as a Strike Offense in Washington State

Posted: 24 Sep 2010  

Jennifer M. Cox

Seattle University

Date Written: September 23, 2010


The Washington State legislature should remove second degree robbery as a viable final strike because of the large sentencing disparity between the POAA’s mandatory sentence of life without parole versus the Washington State Sentencing Guidelines Commission’s sentencing range for this offense. However, second degree robbery should remain as a viable first or second strike offense to serve the goal of deterrence, and failing that, to ensure that offenders whose crimes escalate in violence are removed from society by incarceration.

This Comment begins by discussing the history of three strikes legislation both nationally and in Washington State and explains why three strikes laws became popular in the mid 1990’s. Part II also addresses the elements and sentencing of second degree robbery under Washington’s current sentencing structure. Part III provides an overview of the sentencing process in Washington State including the background of the Washington Sentencing Guidelines Commission and its goals, the role of both the Washington State Clemency and Pardons Board and the governor in granting clemency, as well as the severity of life in prison without parole. Part IV addresses why the POAA should be amended to better align with the reality of how Washington prosecutors use second degree robbery as a strike offense. Part IV also assesses the disconnect between the outcomes of three strikes laws and the goals behind them and the politics behind criminal sentencing legislation.

Suggested Citation

Cox, Jennifer M., Life in Prison for Stealing $48? Rethinking Second Degree Robbery as a Strike Offense in Washington State (September 23, 2010). Seattle University Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Jennifer M. Cox (Contact Author)

Seattle University ( email )

900 Broadway
Seattle, WA 98122
United States

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