The Washington Supreme Court unanimously held in State v. Medina (No. 89147-8) that petitioner Mario Medina was not entitled to credit for time served for five years of required service in two King County Community Center for Alternative Programs (CCAP): one that required Medina to report in person to the Yesler Building daily as an alternative to total confinement and one that required him to report only by phone. The Court’s statutory and double jeopardy analysis is neither controversial nor surprising. The equal protection analysis, in contrast, arguably misses the point, which is that differences in wealth necessarily lead to two sets of sentencing ranges: one for those who are able to procure pretrial release and one for those who cannot. Such a classification violates equal protection principles.
While Medina was awaiting retrial on charges of second degree murder, he was ordered to participate in CCAP as an alternative to total pretrial confinement. Medina participated in these programs for approximately five years before his second trial resulted in a conviction. At sentencing, he argued that he was entitled, as a matter of both statutory and constitutional law, to credit for time served in CCAP. The trial court and court of appeals rejected these arguments. The Washington Supreme Court granted review and affirmed.
Analysis: Starting (briefly) with Medina’s statutory argument, the Court held that at the time Medina was sentenced credit for time served was governed by a series of statutes that gave the offender credit for confinement before sentencing only if the confinement involved “residence” as contrasted with “work.” Participation in CCAP does not satisfy that requirement, the Court held, because it “is similar to reporting to work or school – clearly, the CCAP facility is not a residence.”
Turning to Medina’s constitutional arguments, Medina first asserted that failure to credit his CCAP time violates equal protection principles because wealthy defendants are often able to procure pretrial release whereas indigent defendants are often unable to do so and are then ordered to participate in CCAP. The Court agreed that equal protection principles bar the legislature from distinguishing between wealthy and indigent defendants for the purpose of credit for time served, but the legislature remains free to draw other distinctions, including – in this case – between confinement that requires “residence” as opposed to “work.” The Court further held that this distinction “is rational.”
Lastly, Medina also argued that failure to credit his CCAP time violates the double jeopardy clause because he consequently was punished twice for the same offense: first through required participation in CCAP and second through incarceration without credit for time served in CCAP. The court rejected that argument largely on evidentiary grounds: because Medina “has not offered any evidence that his CCAP participation was punitive in effect, and indeed it appears that CCAP is rehabilitative in design.”
Commentary: The Court’s statutory analysis and double jeopardy analysis are relatively straightforward and not surprising. The legislature could have mandated that defendants receive time served credit for any required pretrial constraints but chose not to do so. And the double jeopardy clause of the both the state and federal constitutions do not seem to apply to anything short of punishment.
The Court’s equal protection analysis, in contrast, is more debatable. On the one hand, the Court correctly held that the legislature can and does draw distinctions unrelated to wealth. But even accepting that principle, it cannot reasonably be disputed – just as Medina argued – that there are in effect two sets of sentencing ranges: (1) jail time for those who can procure pretrial release from confinement; and (2) jail time plus required CCAP participation for those who cannot. That distinction, it can be argued, impermissibly turns on wealth and therefore violates equal protection principles.