Spokane, WA 99201
Seattle, WA 98164-1012
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. Under state law and the Washington State Constitution, the Attorney General’s office cannot prosecute crimes without a request from a county prosecutor or the Governor. Upon request, the division prosecutes criminal cases throughout the state. CRJ has experience prosecuting all manner of crime such as homicide cases in smaller counties, sexual assault cases, child predatory cases, public corruption and police accountability cases, and white-collar crimes such as tax fraud, general fraud, organized retail crime and wage theft. CRJ civilly prosecutes previously convicted sexually violent predators who have served their criminal sentence but who still pose a serious threat to re-offend. CRJ also provides investigative assistance to law enforcement upon request, including the investigation of cold cases of missing and murdered indigenous persons. It offers state and nationwide investigative expertise through the office’s Homicide Investigation and Tracking System (HITS) Unit and through the investigators and crime analysts who are part of HITS. CRJ also provides client advice and litigation services to the Washington State Patrol and the Criminal Justice Training Commission. The division’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) Team helped cause the testing of Washington’s backlog of sexual assault kits; tracks down convicted offenders who owe the State a DNA sample; and helps law enforcement solve sexual assault cold cases.
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.
Criminal Litigation Unit (CLU): CLU reviews and prosecutes criminal cases referred to the AGO by county prosecutors or the Governor pursuant to RCW 43.10.232. Cases are generally referred to CLU by the county prosecutors due to conflict of interest or lack of resources. CLU focuses on non-economic crimes, including violent crimes, sex crimes, property crimes, and other crimes.
Major Economic Crimes Unit (MECU): MECU focuses on financial crimes committed against Washington citizens, businesses, and government agencies. MECU is comprised of two teams: (1) the Organized Retail Crime (ORC) Team, and (2) the Financial Crime Team. In 2022, in response to concerns expressed by Washington retailers and law enforcement, the Attorney General convened an Organized Retail Crime Task Force to bring together stakeholders and discuss solutions to organized retail crime. In 2023, the Legislature funded an ORC Team in the AGO. A primary goal of the ORC Team is to assist retailers and local law enforcement with investigation of organized retail crime; and holding offenders accountable for organized retail crime through criminal prosecution. The Financial Fraud team reviews and prosecutes cases involving fraud against state agencies, businesses, and individuals such as wage theft and tax fraud; and all other manner of economic and financial crimes. MECU prosecutes cases with the concurrence of county prosecutors pursuant to RCW 43.10.232.
Homicide Investigation and Tracking System Unit (HITS): HITS is a program within the Attorney General’s Office that tracks and investigates homicides and sexual assaults. The HITS Unit also offers investigative consultation to agencies around the state for cold case homicide and equivocal death investigations. It is the only statewide central repository for information relating to violent crimes against persons. Data from more than 14,300 murder investigations and more than 9,400 sexual assaults have been collected by HITS and 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 databases and software 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.
Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI): CRJ provides resources to the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) federal grant program, which began in 2017. Washington’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative is a statewide effort to address the accumulation of unsubmitted sexual assault kits (SAK) in the possession of local law enforcement agencies and hospitals. In November 2023, the AGO announced that the last of the approximately 10,000 kit backlog of sexual assault kits had been submitted for DNA analysis. As a result of this project, many new DNA profiles have been uploaded to the national DNA database (CODIS). SAKI is also engaged in the “Lawfully Owed DNA” project, which seeks to identify, locate, and collect DNA samples from convicted Washington offenders who were supposed to have submitted a biological sample for DNA profiling but never did so. The SAKI Team also provides federal funding to local law enforcement for forensic genetic genealogy services; and assists local law enforcement upon request to solve cold sexual assault cases.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People Cold Case Team: In 2023, in part in response to recommendations from the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and People (MMIWP) Task Force, the Washington Legislature created and funded an MMIWP Cold Case Team within the AGO. The purpose of the team is to review and attempt to solve missing person and cold homicide cases involving persons of indigenous ancestry, who go missing and are murdered at a higher rate than other demographics. The team investigates these cases with the consent of the local law enforcement agency of jurisdiction.
CJTC/WSP Unit: A team of CRJ attorneys provides legal advice and litigation services to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), the Criminal Justice Training Commission (CJTC), and the Forensic Investigation Council.
Advisory Groups & Task Forces: The CRJ participates in many groups and task forces, including Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons Working Group, Seattle University Criminal Justice Advisory Board, Commercial Sexually Exploited Children Task Force, Sexual Assault Forensic Examinations (SAFE) Advisory Group, Organized Retail Crime Task Force, Worker Protection Working Group, Prosecution of Employer Crimes Working Group, and others.
Law Enforcement Medal of Honor: Each year our office helps organize the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor Ceremony
Attorney General Bob Ferguson also regularly meets with representatives from law enforcement agencies across Washington State.