It is done. Governor Jay Inslee signed SB 5536, which outlines appropriate penalties for drug possession in Washington. Washington’s new drug possession statute prioritizes treatment, establishes a gross misdemeanor penalty for drug possession and public use of drugs, and offers some local control to municipalities. The bill is not designed to fill jails. It is designed to fill treatment centers.
As is well known by now, in February 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that strict liability for “innocent, passive conduct” was unconstitutional; the state’s felony drug possession statute was invalidated in State of Washington v. Blake. For a brief period, drug possession was functionally decriminalized. Now the Legislature has instituted permanent legislation to charge drug possession and public use as gross misdemeanors, not a felony. The charges imposed by SB 5536 are considered proverbial guardrails to ensure accountability down a path to recovery. The bill prioritizes treatment, not imprisonment, for those addicted to drugs. SB 5536 directs the investment of more than $44 million to support people overcoming addiction. Housing supports, educational services, crisis centers, and family navigator programs are all components of a system intended to help people through the entire process of recovery. The bill allows plenty of flexibility for courts, prosecutors, municipalities, and community service providers; courts and prosecutors may consider other alternatives to traditional prosecution. A defendant with behavioral health issues who is also addicted to drugs may benefit most from inpatient behavioral health treatment. A veteran fighting chemical dependency may be diverted to a veteran’s court program. Community service providers also benefit from flexibility because SB 5536 also establishes a grant program to support community-based crisis stabilization, addiction counseling, and behavioral health treatment providers. In all, SB 5536 should provide for greater opportunity to help those addicted to drugs and, by extension, hopefully lessen crime.
If you or a loved one is in a bind because of a criminal traffic charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.