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AGO 1954 No. 280 - July 02, 1954
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

PAROLE BOARD ‑- ARSON, FIRST DEGREE ‑- AUTHORITY TO FIX MINIMUM TERM OF CONFINEMENT BELOW 5 YEARS.

Board of Prison Terms and Paroles may fix minimum duration of confinement for Arson, first degree, at less than five years.

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                                                                     July 2, 1954

Board of Prison Terms and Paroles
614 County City Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                                  Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 280

Attention:  Dr. Henry H. Ness, Chairman

Gentlemen:

            In your letter of June 18, 1954, you requested an opinion from this office on the following question:

            "The board is desirous of an opinion regarding its jurisdiction in the fixing of minimum terms in cases of arson first degree.  An article appearing in the paper recently gave the idea that the board must fix a mandatory term of 5 years."

            In our opinion, the Board may fix the duration of confinement at less than the five years mentioned by RCW 9.09.010.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            We are attaching hereto a copy of an opinion from this office, rendered to the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles on June 25, 1948, which, in our opinion, is the answer to your problem.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            Section 141, chapter 249, Laws of 1909, Rem. Rev. Stat. § 2418, RCW 9.09.010, defines arson, first degree, and prescribes the punishment at "not less than five years."  You will note this statute is worded in identical language, except for the number of years, as is that on murder, second degree, referred to in the attached opinion.

            Please be advised that the opinion of June 25, 1948, is in principle equally applicable to arson, first degree.

            It is, therefore, our opinion that the Board of Prison Terms and Paroles may fix any minimum term which in its judgment is right and appropriate under the circumstances in cases of arson, first degree.  The Board, however, in so fixing the duration of confinement (minimum term) cannot exceed the maximum provided by law or the court.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General

JOHN J. QUINE
Assistant Attorney General

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