State v. M.S.

Sixteen-year-old M.S. agreed to a deferred disposition believing he was subject to a standard range sentence. Subsequently, under Washington’s Manifest Injustice provision of the Juvenile Code, the court imposed a longer sentence on M.S. based on aggravating factors that are not identified in Washington’s Juvenile Justice Act and that he had no notice of at the time he made his agreement. M.S.’s sentence was twelve times longer than the maximum standard range.

Juvenile Law Center filed an amicus brief in the Washington Supreme Court in support of M.S. We argued that the Fourteenth Amendment due process guarantees requires juvenile offenders receive notice of the aggravating factors a court may rely on to impose a manifest injustice sentence before the entry of a guilty plea or agreeing to a deferred disposition. We further argued that providing youth with constitutionally sufficient notice does not run counter to the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile justice system.

The Washington Supreme Court held that youth do have a right to notice of the facts and aggravating factors used to impose a manifest injustice disposition prior to pleading guilty or proceeding to trial.