by Paul Kiefer
(This article originally appeared on PubliCola and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
After a last-minute rush to pass legislation in response to the Washington State Supreme Court’s decision in February that rendered the existing drug possession laws void, the Washington State Legislature passed new legislation on Saturday, April 24, re-criminalizing low-level drug possession by making it a misdemeanor and requiring local jurisdictions to provide treatment options for drug users. The bill, ESB 5476, directs law enforcement officers to divert people who violate the new law to “assessment, treatment, or other services” for the first two violations; after the second violation, a violator can be referred for prosecution and, potentially, a fine or jail.
After making compromises to pass the bill before the final day of the legislative session on Sunday, many lawmakers are not fully satisfied with the result. But had the legislature not passed a new law regulating drug possession, some lawmakers worried that a patchwork of local policies and enforcement practices would have filled the vacuum.
The decision that precipitated the scramble to adjust Washington’s drug possession laws, called State of Washington v. Blake, ruled that Washington’s so-called “strict liability” drug possession laws — which made no distinction between intentional and unintentional drug possession — violated the due process rights enshrined in both the state and federal constitutions.
Continue reading Washington Legislature Re-Criminalizes Drug Possession in Last Minute Vote
by Erica C. Barnett
(This article was originally published on PubliCola and has been reprinted with permission.)
City Attorney Pete Holmes is running for reelection, he told PubliCola Monday, in a wide-ranging conversation that covered the federal Consent Decree, the state of downtown Seattle, and last year’s historic protests. If he’s reelected, Holmes said, he will have served alongside six mayors, about 30 councilmembers, and “six or seven police chiefs,” and “we’ll be negotiating my third or fourth police contract.” Coming out of the pandemic, he said, “I can’t think of a time that it’s been more necessary to have steady and strong leadership.” If Holmes didn’t run again, in other words, who would take his place? Scott Lindsay?
Continue reading City Attorney Pete Holmes Will Seek Fourth Term
by Erica C. Barnett
(This article was previously published on The C is for Crank and has been reprinted with permission.)
More than six weeks after the Seattle-based Public Defender Association (PDA) launched its Co-LEAD program in Burien, the diversion program has come home to Seattle and began serving five homeless clients last week. Co-LEAD provides hotel rooms, case management, and other basic supports to people experiencing homelessness who have been in the criminal justice system and lack legal options for making money during the COVID-19 pandemic. After launching the program in Burien in April, the PDA had hoped to enroll some of the people who were dispersed throughout the city during several recent encampment sweeps, but were unable to do so because the city moved ahead with the removals before Co-LEAD case workers could identify and enroll new participants.
Continue reading Co-LEAD Allowed to Start Moving People From Seattle Streets Into Hotels, Too Late to Help Those Removed in Last Three Sweeps