State v. M.S.

Citation484 P.3d 1231,197 Wash.2d 453
Decision Date15 April 2021
Docket NumberNo. 96894-2,96894-2
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Washington
Parties STATE of Washington, Respondent, v. M.S., Petitioner.

Kate Huber, Washington Appellate Project, 1511 Third Avenue, Suite 610, Seattle, WA, 98101, for Petitioner.

James Morrissey Whisman, Benjamin Carr, King County Prosecutor's Office, 516 3rd Ave., Ste. W554, Seattle, WA, 98104-2362, for Respondent.

Kimberly Noel Gordon, Law Offices of Gordon & Saunders PLLC, 1000 2nd Ave., Suite 3140, Seattle, WA, 98104, Riya Saha Shah, Nadia Mozaffar, Marsha L. Levick, Juvenile Law Center, 1800 Jfk Boulevard, Suite 1900b, Philadelphia, PA, 19103, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Juvenile Law Center.

Melissa R. Lee, Lorraine K. Bannai, Robert S. Chang, Seattle University School of Law, 901 12th Ave., Korematsu Center For Law & Equality, Seattle, WA, 98122-4411, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of Fred T. Korematsu Center.

Joseph August Voss Jr., Attorney at Law, 1225 S. Weller St. Ste. 420, Seattle, WA, 98144-1906, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of TeamChild.

Julia Mizutani, Attorney at Law, Nancy Lynn Talner, Kendrick Washington, ACLU-WA, Antoinette M. Davis, American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, Po Box 2728, Seattle, WA, 98111-2728, Jose Dino Vasquez, Karr Tuttle Campbell, 701 5th Ave. Ste. 3300, Seattle, WA, 98104-7055, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of ACLU of Washington.

Katherine Elizabeth Hurley, La Rond Baker, King County Department of Public Defense, 710 2nd Ave. Ste. 200, Seattle, WA, 98104-1703, for Amicus Curiae on behalf of King County Department of Public Defense.


¶ 1 This case involves the issue of whether a juvenile, before entering a guilty plea in a criminal proceeding, has a statutory or constitutional due process right to notice of the factual basis of and the intent to seek a manifest injustice disposition. The trial court in this case sentenced M.S., a juvenile, to a manifest injustice disposition based on facts and aggravating factors that M.S. had no notice of at the time of his plea. The Court of Appeals affirmed M.S.’s sentence and rejected M.S.’s argument that any right to notice of the factual basis of a manifest injustice disposition exists prior to pleading guilty.1 We reverse the Court of Appeals and hold that a juvenile has a right to notice of the factual basis necessary to support a manifest injustice sentence before deciding to plead guilty.2


¶ 2 In November 2017, M.S. was charged with third degree assault of a King County Metro bus driver. M.S. approached the driver's side window of a King County bus while it was parked. When the bus driver leaned out the driver's side window to speak to M.S., M.S. squirted urine from a plastic bottle at the bus driver. M.S. then threw the plastic bottle into the bus, where it hit the driver and further covered the driver with urine. The driver threw the bottle out of the bus, and M.S. tossed the bottle at the front windshield of the bus.

¶ 3 M.S. pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of fourth degree assault and requested a deferred disposition of the criminal assault charge. During M.S.’s plea colloquy, the court discussed with M.S. the meaning of a deferred disposition and the constitutional rights M.S. was waiving. The court noted that it could revoke the disposition and then sentence M.S. The court explained the standard range for M.S.’s crime.3 The court also asked M.S. if he understood that the court could impose a manifest injustice sentence outside the standard range if it found aggravating factors.4

The court did not mention at the hearing or in the plea agreement any existing aggravating factors it could rely on if it did impose a manifest injustice sentence.

¶ 4 The court granted M.S.’s request for a deferred disposition on January 3, 2018, and in it required M.S. to comply with a number of conditions of community supervision. The order required M.S. to attend and participate in the case management process and to meet with his juvenile probation counselor (JPC). It required that M.S. live in a placement approved by the Department of Social and Health Services,5 given that M.S. was a dependent child, and required that M.S. comply with a curfew set by his JPC or treatment provider. The order also required M.S. to attend school or a GED (general equivalency diploma) program without disciplinary issues; prohibited M.S. from using, possessing, or consuming alcohol or other controlled substances without a prescription; required M.S. to complete counseling, treatment, and classes at the direction of the JPC; and required M.S. to complete random urinalysis (UA) tests.

¶ 5 M.S. was placed in Cypress House, which is a therapeutic group home for juveniles with behavioral issues. M.S. was unable to comply with the conditions of community supervision. On March 22, 2018, the court held a hearing and found that M.S. failed to go to scheduled appointments with his JPC, to comply with curfew restrictions, to attend school, and to provide random UAs. The court imposed a sanction of 10 days of detention. It did not revoke M.S.’s deferred disposition, and it gave M.S. another opportunity to comply with the conditions of community supervision.

¶ 6 M.S.’s behavior did not improve after his 10-day detention. After being released from detention, M.S. used drugs and alcohol, and he brought drugs and drug paraphernalia into Cypress House. He brought weapons into Cypress House and threatened and assaulted his peers and the staff. M.S. was unable to comply with curfew restrictions, although he was making improvements. Based on his behavior, Cypress House requested his removal because of the danger M.S. posed to his peers and the staff.

¶ 7 Both the JPC and the State requested that M.S.’s deferred disposition be revoked. The State further recommended a manifest injustice disposition above standard range to be served in the Juvenile Rehabilitation Administration (JRA). The court revoked the deferred disposition based on M.S.’s failure to participate in and comply with the case management process. The court then imposed a manifest injustice disposition of 52 weeks. The court found five aggravating factors supported the manifest injustice sentence: (1) high risk to reoffend, (2) inability of M.S.’s supervisors to control him, (3) M.S.’s treatment needs that could not be addressed in the community, (4) failure to comply with court orders, and (5) the unjust leniency of the standard range.

¶ 8 M.S. appealed his manifest injustice disposition, arguing that the trial court erred by considering prohibited and nonstatutory aggravating factors and, secondarily, that he was denied constitutional due process to notice at the time of his charging and plea of the specific aggravating factors that could support a manifest injustice disposition.

¶ 9 The Court of Appeals commissioner rejected these challenges and affirmed the manifest injustice disposition. The commissioner concluded that M.S. had waived his argument regarding the use of nonstatutory aggravating factors because he had not raised that issue in the trial court. But the commissioner noted that courts are allowed to consider nonstatutory aggravating factors in imposing manifest injustice dispositions.

¶ 10 The commissioner rejected the argument that Apprendi v. New Jersey , 530 U.S. 466, 120 S. Ct. 2348, 147 L. Ed. 2d 435 (2000), and Blakely v. Washington , 542 U.S. 296, 124 S. Ct. 2531, 159 L. Ed. 2d 403 (2004), required notice of aggravating factors supporting a manifest injustice disposition at the time of the guilty plea. The commissioner further reasoned that State v. Siers, 174 Wash.2d 269, 274 P.3d 358 (2012), which held that adult criminal defendants must have constitutionally adequate notice of aggravating factors even though they need not be in the charging document, was inapposite. The commissioner concluded that no due process violation existed and affirmed the trial court. M.S. then sought discretionary review in this court, which we granted.

I. Statutory Scheme

¶ 11 In this case, it is useful to first provide an overview of the statutory scheme governing deferred dispositions for juveniles charged with criminal behavior. Where a juvenile agrees to a deferred disposition, they must acknowledge "the [police] report will be entered and used to support a finding of guilt and to impose a disposition if the juvenile fails to comply with terms of supervision" and "the direct consequences of being found guilty and the direct consequences that will happen if an order of disposition is entered." RCW 13.40.127(3)(b), (d). In deferring dispositions, the court is required to put the juvenile under conditions of community supervision. RCW 13.40.127(5). The prosecutor may move to revoke the deferred disposition and enter an order of disposition if the juvenile fails to comply with the conditions of supervision. RCW 13.40.127(7)(a)-(b). The deferred disposition may result in a dismissal if certain requirements are met. RCW 13.40.127(9)(a).

¶ 12 Where a deferred disposition is revoked, the statute provides the court with four options to sentence juveniles pursuant to an order of disposition. RCW 13.40.0357. One of the options provides a standard range for the crime with which the juvenile was convicted. RCW 13.40.0357 (Option A). But the last option allows the judge to sentence a juvenile to a manifest injustice disposition, which can be either above or below the standard range. RCW 13.40.0357 (Option D). In order to sentence a juvenile to a manifest injustice disposition, the judge must first find by clear and convincing evidence that the standard range disposition would cause a manifest injustice. RCW 13.40.160(2). Under the statute, "manifest injustice" is defined, in relevant part, as a disposition that "would impose a serious, and clear danger to society in light of the purposes of this chapter." RCW 13.40.020(19). At a dispositional hearing, "all relevant and...

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