Is King County Charging Rape Cases Against Juveniles?

Law office of Natalie Findley-Wolf

In late December 2023, the Seattle Times posted an opinion piece written by Reagan Dunn (a member of the King County Metropolitan Council) about a recent KOMO news story reporting that King County was only prosecuting 17% of the juvenile sexual assault charges referred to them by law enforcement. The opinion piece was also critical of the King County policy “Zero Youth Detention,” which was enacted to reduce incarceration rates of juveniles due to the long-lasting effects of detention on young people. The opinion piece failed to acknowledge the systemic racism that Zero Youth Detention attempts to thwart and ignored the practice realities of assessing cases for potential charging. Instead, the report focused on its position of the “poor state” of juvenile justice and the concerns of people who “work with victims.”

While the numbers are acknowledged by Jimmy Hung, the head of the King County Juvenile Division of the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the reality is that juveniles are in fact still being charged with rape cases.

Progressively over the last decade, King County Juvenile Court has offered more and more diversion opportunities for individuals facing sex offenses. The legislator for the State of Washington has also limited the ways in which juvenile offenders can be sentenced and punished for sex offenses, truly looking at the data and outcomes of the policies at play.

Mr. Hung and his colleagues must assess each case carefully, weighing all the evidence and determining first whether the case has solid evidence. Just because a matter is referred to the prosecutor’s office by police (which is mandatory in WA State for sexual accusations) does not mean that the matter is appropriate for criminal charging. Once an assessment of the case facts has been done, then an assessment of whether they should charge the case versus making a referral to probation for diversion is more appropriate.

This is where having an experienced sex and juvenile defense lawyer is critical. Your lawyer can coordinate interviews with an investigator, gather evidence on your behalf, talk to the detective and to the prosecutor’s office, and gather records about your child to share with police or the prosecutor. Having a lawyer there to advocate for a result for your child can in fact change the outcome.

If your child is facing juvenile court involvement or is being investigated by the police for any crime, call Natalie Findley-Wolf at 206.228.2800 to set up a free one-hour consultation. Phones are answered 24/7.

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