Do You Know the Three Strike Rule in Washington?


In the state of Washington, as well as many other states, there is a rule known as the “Three Strike” rule that can result in an individual being sentenced to life in prison. While you should take any felony charge seriously, it’s even more important if you are facing a third felony that could qualify under this rule. We certainly don’t want you to suddenly face a life sentence when you were expecting it to be a typical felony sentence.


One of the questions we regularly get is how the timing works for this rule. For example, we’ve had clients come into our office who are facing three felony charges simultaneously. Are they facing a life sentence if they are convicted of those three felony charges? Not under the three strike rule. For this rule to apply, there must be 3 felony convictions for 3 separate occasions.

Do all felonies count?

No. Only “serious” felonies are counted when looking at the three strike rule. That probably raises a question for many people – what is a serious felony? While you should take all felony charges seriously – a conviction can threaten your freedom and livelihood – only some felonies are considered serious for these purposes. You may expect that crimes such as murder and sex crimes are considered serious, some less obvious “serious” crimes include kidnapping and robbery. Generally, any felony that results in a penalty of at least 10 years and involves a significant risk of force is also considered serious under this rule. Crimes that don’t count under this include unarmed robbery, arson, and grand larceny. Keep in mind, however, it is the accused that has the burden to prove the felony does not qualify as serious for the purposes of applying the Three Strikes rule.

State and Federal Court

While we frame this article in terms of Washington state, it’s important to note that this is the case in both federal and state court. If you’ve been convicted of three “serious” felonies in Washington state court, this law will apply. Similarly, if you are facing a “serious” felony charge in federal court and have two “serious” felony convictions either in state or federal court, you may be facing the Three Strikes rule.

You should be aware of this whether you are facing a first, second or third felony charge. We want to be able to best position you at all times looking at all potential consequences down the line. While we don’t expect you’ll face another felony charge, we prepare for all possibilities and want you to understand what future consequences could come from your current situation.

If you’re facing a felony charge, either in state or federal court, it’s important to have an attorney guide you through the process to ensure your rights are protected. Give us a call today for your free consultation.