Washington State Law allows people charged with certain Misdemeanors to get their case dismissed by “compromising” with the victim of the crime. If you can comply with the conditions, a Compromise of Misdemeanor can give you a way of keeping your criminal record clean.
The first requirement is that the crime charged is a Misdemeanor. Washington State recognizes two types of non-felony crimes: Misdemeanors and Gross Misdemeanors. A Misdemeanor is one where the maximum sentence is 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine. A Gross Misdemeanor is a crime where the maximum penalty is a year in jail and a $5000 fine.
The next requirement is that “the person injured by the act constituting the offense has a remedy by a civil action.” In other words, if the victim of your crime could sue you for the offense, then this is the type of crime where a Compromise of Misdemeanor can be used. A common example is Theft in the third degree.
There are also four classes of Misdemeanors that cannot be resolved through a Compromise of Misdemeanor if the Misdemeanor was committed: First, by or upon an officer while in the execution of the duties of his office; or Second, Riotously; or Third, with an intent to commit a felony; or Fourth, by one family or household member against another as defined in RCW 10.99.020 and was a crime of domestic violence as defined in RCW 10.99.020.
The injured party (victim) must appear in the court that is handling the criminal charge and acknowledge in writing that he or she has received “satisfaction” (money) for the injury or crime. The Court has discretion on whether or not to approve the Compromise of Misdemeanor, though I have yet to be in the Court that has not approved a valid Compromise. The Court can also require Court Costs (more money) before it approves the Compromise. After approval, the Court must put in writing its reasons for approving the Compromise. If the Compromise of Misdemeanor is approved, then the charges against the Defendant are dismissed and cannot be re-filed later.
In practice, you are wise to talk with the Prosecutor before pursuing a Compromise of Misdemeanor and make sure they have no objection to it. Their consent may not be required, but I have yet to be in the Court that did not ask the Prosecutor for their position on the matter.
Generally, you prepare a written contract detailing: (1) Who the victim is; and (2) how much money they will receive; and (3) the fact that they did receive the money; and (4) states that the victim understands, and is OK with, the fact that the criminal case will be dismissed.
The Compromise of Misdemeanor is an often overlooked method of resolving certain types of low level criminal activity. I have rarely, if ever, had a prosecutor suggest this as a resolution to a case. As a result, many criminal defendants, especially those representing themselves, that could have qualified instead end up with convictions on their record.