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Criminal Justice Division

Division Description

Overview
Legal Services Provided
Significant Cases

Contact:
E-mail

Spokane
Spokane, WA 99201

Seattle
Seattle, WA 98164-1012


Overview

The mission of the Criminal Justice Division (CRJ) is to work with and support its partners in the criminal justice community and to work towards creating safe communities.  Upon request from the Governor, local law enforcement and local prosecutors, the division investigates and prosecutes criminal cases throughout the state and provides investigative and prosecutorial support to local law enforcement and prosecutors in several areas including homicide cases, sexual assaults, white-collar crime, identity theft, and computer and high tech related crime.  The Criminal Justice Division also investigates and prosecutes Medicaid fraud and resident abuse cases.  The CRJ civilly prosecutes previously convicted sexually violent predators who have served their criminal sentence and who still pose a serious threat to re-offend. The CRJ provides state and nationwide investigative expertise and assistance through the office’s Homicide Investigation and Tracking System (HITS) Unit, and through the investigators and crime analysts who are part of HITS.  The CRJ also represents and advises the Washington State Patrol (WSP),  the Criminal Justice Training Commission, and other criminal justice agencies.

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Legal Services Provided

Sexually Violent Predator Unit (SVP):  The SVP Unit was established in 1990 following enactment of RCW 71.09 which permits the involuntary civil commitment of sex offenders who, because of a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder, are likely to commit predatory acts of sexual violence if released to the community.  The cases are largely based on expert psychological testimony that details the offender’s typically lengthy criminal sexual history, and gives a complex statistical analysis of sex offender recidivism data.  Additionally, victims and witnesses involved in the offender’s crimes frequently testify about their contact with the offender.

The unit is responsible for prosecuting sex predator cases for 38 of Washington’s 39 counties (King County being the exception).  The expertise of the unit permits it to handle all aspects of sex predator cases, including pre-filing investigations, pre-trial motion practice, trial, post-commitment proceedings, and appeals.  Because of the liberty interest at stake, offenders subject to civil commitment as SVPs are granted many of the rights of criminal defendants, such as the right to counsel, the right to a unanimous jury and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Once committed, the SVPs are entitled to annual reviews of their condition, and the unit attorneys must produce evidence that the offenders continue to meet SVP criteria at a yearly hearing.

Homicide Investigation and Tracking System Unit (HITS):  HITS is a program within the Attorney General’s Office that tracks and investigates homicides and rapes.  It is the only statewide central repository for information relating to violent crimes against persons.  Data from more than 10,100 murder investigations, more than 8,300 sexual assaults have been collected by HITS and has been used to assist local law enforcement in the investigation of these crimes.  Typically, the HITS Unit will respond to over 1,000 requests for assistance or information each year.  The investigators who work in the unit also provide expertise to the local and national jurisdictions on homicide and rape investigations.  The HITS Unit is a national leader in developing and using computers in innovative ways to prevent and increase the solvability of crimes.  The unit has been the recipient of several grants to study trends or common characteristics in violent crimes, and provides training to local law enforcement. 

Criminal Litigation Unit (CLU):  When requested by the Governor or any of the 39 county prosecuting attorneys, the CLU investigates, assists with and prosecutes complex criminal cases.  The members of the CLU render assistance ranging from review of charging decisions, to assuming full prosecutorial authority in cases that present a potential conflict for the local prosecutor.  The attorneys of the CLU also provide specialized expertise in homicide prosecution, complex litigation, public corruption, white collar crime, corporate fraud, insurance fraud, and mortgage fraud as well as serving as a liaison with various federal investigative and prosecution resources.  Members of the CLU are often called upon by various state agencies to provide training on case development, and risk assessment/management to the internal state investigators. 

The CLU has partnered with the Department of Revenue, the Office of the Insurance Commissioner, the Department of Labor and Industries, the Employment Securities Department, the State Auditor’s Office, the Department of Licensing and the Department of Financial Institutions to assist those agencies in the investigation and prosecution of crimes committed against the state of Washington and its citizens.  These cooperative efforts have been highly successful and have resulted in recovery awards in excess of $10 million to the state.

In additional investigating and prosecuting criminal cases, members of the CLU organize and participate in several multi-jurisdictional task forces and working groups designed to coordinate efforts to combat specific types of crime.  These groups include the Washington Child Abduction Response Team, the Missing and Exploited Children’s Task Force, the Internet Crimes Against Children task force, the Youth Internet Safety Taskforce, a human trafficking working group, a state-wide gang task force, Law Enforcement Group against Identity Theft, and several other economic crime and fraud task forces and working groups.

Client Advice Provided:  The CRJ also represents and advises the Washington State Patrol (WSP), the Criminal Justice Training Commission, and the Forensic Investigation Council.

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Significant Cases

In re McCuistion:  The Sexually Violent Predator (SVP) Unit recently achieved a remarkable victory when the Washington State Supreme Court (WSSC), on reconsideration, withdrew its 2010 opinion and issued an opinion upholding legislative amendments to the state’s SVP law, which allow an evidentiary hearing only if the individual committed shows a physiological change or change in mental condition due to treatment.  If the reasoning of the 2010 WSSC decision had prevailed, SVP respondents could have obtained new commitment trials every year, costing the state millions of dollars in additional funds.  Dozens of these new trials had been ordered but were stayed pending the outcome of this case.  The SVP respondent recently moved for reconsideration of the WSSC opinion, which will delay the issuance of the mandate until the WSSC decides on this motion.

SVP Funding:  The 2012 legislature removed all SVP funding from DSHS and placed it in the AGO and the Office of Public Defense (OPD) for greater oversight.  A budget proviso allows the AGO to contract with King County to provide prosecution services so long as the costs are no more than the AGO would spend for the same services. 

Marijuana Issues:  The CRJ Division monitors legal and policy issues related to medical marijuana, given the legal implications for the WSP and all law enforcement agencies in the state.  Recently, the division provided input to the Solicitor General’s Office on an opinion request regarding the legal implications to law enforcement for returning medical marijuana pursuant to a court order.  

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