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Examining RCW 9.98’s Interpretation: The legal interpretation of Washington’s intrastate detainers statute, RCW 9.98, especially in the State v. Morris case, is a critical issue in criminal law. This statute addresses the right of incarcerated individuals to a speedy trial on separate charges within the state.

Key Issue: Start of the 120-Day Period

Determining the Trial Period’s Commencement: Central to this discussion is the start of the 120-day trial period under RCW 9.98.010. The pivotal question is whether this period begins when a prisoner requests a trial or when the request reaches the prosecutor and court. The State v. Morris case, where the Court of Appeals sided with the initial request date, brings this issue into sharp focus.

The Timeline of Events in Morris’s Case: Clark Morris, charged with first-degree theft in 1990 and later jailed on unrelated charges, requested a final disposition of his Spokane charge in 1991. His motion to dismiss in December, based on the lapse of the 120-day period, played a key role in the ensuing legal battle.

The Court of Appeals’ Stance and Its Implications: The trial court’s decision and the Court of Appeals’ affirmation that the period begins with the prisoner’s request delivery highlight the statute’s interpretation complexities, echoing a similar dissent in the Supreme Court’s handling of the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD).

Navigating Between Two Interpretations: The U.S. Supreme Court’s adoption of the receipt-by-the-prosecutor theory in Fex v. Michigan, in contrast to the Morris case, presents a unique challenge for Washington’s legal system. Aligning with the Supreme Court may bring uniformity and clarity to the interpretation of similar statutes.


Implications of State v. Morris: This case underscores the need for a consistent interpretation of RCW 9.98.010, impacting not only individual defendants but also the broader legal framework in Washington. It emphasizes the necessity for clear guidelines on the commencement of the speedy trial period for incarcerated individuals.

You can read the text of State v. Morris:

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About Blanford Law:

We are no-nonsense, relentless, fair, and honest. We are great listeners instead of fast talkers, that is just who we are. More than 20 years ago, Ken began practicing law with a deeply-seeded belief that every person has the right to the best legal representation available. He built his law firm on that belief. Another belief that he strongly adheres to is his fundamental belief that clients deserve respect, with no assumptions or preconceived notions.  If you or someone you know is accused of a crime or injured as a result of the negligence of another, please have them call us at 253-720-9304 or email us