AGO 2000 No. 7 - Sep 5 2000
CRIMES Ð JUVENILES Ð SEX OFFENDERS Ð COUNTIES Ð DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS Ð Financial responsibility for treatment of first time sex offenders who are charged before their eighteenth birthdays.
1. When a person is charged with a sex crime before his or her eighteenth birthday and is later convicted and receives a "special sex offender sentencing alternative", the state Department of Corrections is financially responsible for any treatment associated with the sentencing alternative.
2. When a person is charged with a sex crime before his or her eighteenth birthday and is later convicted and receives a "special sex offender sentencing alternative", the financial obligation of the Department of Corrections to pay for treatment continues after the person reaches the age of eighteen.
September 5, 2000
Dear Mr. Randolph:
By letter previously acknowledged, you have requested our opinion on the following paraphrased questions:
We conclude that when the defendant is charged as an adult with a sex crime prior to his or her eighteenth birthday, the state, meaning in this context the Department of Corrections, is responsible for paying for treatment under a SSOSA sentence. Pursuant to statute, the Department of Corrections remains responsible for paying for the treatment even after the defendant turns eighteen.
The Legislature has authorized an alternative sentencing option, known as the "special sex offender sentencing alternative" or "SSOSA", for certain qualifying defendants. RCW 9.94A.120(8). This sentencing alternative is available to certain first-time sex offenders who are judged to be amenable for treatment. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(i). The alternative utilizes a treatment program in lieu of, or in some cases in addition to, a sentence of total confinement. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(ii). As our Supreme Court has explained, "[t]he Legislature developed the special sentencing provision for first time sex offenders in an attempt to prevent future crimes and protect society." State v. Young, 125 Wn.2d 688, 693, 888 P.2d 142 (1995).
The statute authorizes the trial court to order an evaluation to determine whether an otherwise eligible defendant would be amenable to treatment and specifies the information to be included in an evaluation report. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(i). The court will then consider whether, based on the report, "the offender and the community will benefit from use of this special sex offender sentencing alternative and consider the victimÕs opinion whether the offender should receive a treatment disposition under this subsection". RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(ii). If the court finds a SSOSA sentence to be appropriate, it sentences the offender to a standard range sentence. If that sentence is less than eleven years of confinement, the court may suspend its execution and place the defendant on community custody with certain conditions. Those conditions include up to three years of sex offender treatment, on either an outpatient or inpatient basis. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(ii)(A), (B). The court may revoke the suspended sentence at any time if the defendant violates the court-imposed conditions or fails to make satisfactory progress in treatment. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(vi).
Your first question, repeated for ease of reference, inquired:
You next ask whether the obligation to pay for the treatment ends when the offender turns eighteen. We conclude that it does not.
We note first that the statute does not generally make treatment a public expense. The statute is silent as to the payment of treatment costs for offenders who were over eighteen at the time of charging. While it comprehends providing an evaluation at public expense for an indigent offender over age eighteen, it includes no similar reference to providing treatment at public expense. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(i); Young, 125 Wn.2d at 696.
The sole statutory exception simply states that this obligation to pay for the treatment with public funds arises "[i]f the defendant was less than eighteen years of age when the charge was filed". RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(x). In that case, "the state shall pay for the cost". Id. It also includes provisions governing termination of treatment. RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(iv) (treatment termination hearings); RCW 9.94A.120(8)(a)(ii)(B) (treatment orders limited to three years). It includes no provision addressing termination of payments by the state, except that obviously such payments would end upon completion of the treatment. The statute addresses the stateÕs obligation to pay only in terms of a triggering event, specifically filing charges prior to the defendantÕs eighteenth birthday.
The only way in which we could conclude that the obligation to pay ends when the defendant turns eighteen would be to read into the statute words that are not there. The statute simply provides that the obligation to pay arises if the defendant is charged prior to turning eighteen and provides for the eventual termination of treatment. The statute contains no language indicating that the stateÕs payment obligation ceases when the defendant reaches eighteen years of age, or on any other particular occasion (except, of course, when the treatment concludes), nor are we aware of any underlying general principle limiting state payment in this regard. We cannot, through statutory construction, "read into a statute words that are not there". Henley v. Henley, 95 Wn. App. 91, 98, 974 P.2d 362 (1999) (quoting Coughlin v. City of Seattle, 18 Wn. App. 285, 289, 567 P.2d 262 (1977)); see alsoState v. Chester, 133 Wn.2d 15, 21, 940 P.2d 1374 (1997). We therefore conclude that the stateÕs obligation to pay arises if the defendant has not reached age eighteen when charged and continues until treatment terminates.
We trust that this analysis will be of assistance.
Very truly yours,
CHRISTINE O. GREGOIRE
JEFFREY T. EVEN