On the final day of our Washington State legislative session, the House voted down a last-minute deal to maintain a criminal penalty for drug possession and boost funding for treatment. Undoubtedly, this leaves Washington’s drug laws in question. The current law (passed after a significant state Supreme Court ruling) invalidated Washington’s felony drug possession law and made drug possession a simple misdemeanor.
There was a proposal to make drug possession a gross misdemeanor, but it got scuttled at the last minute. Republicans argued that it was too soft on people who use illegal drugs. Democrats said that the focus should be on boosting treatment, not criminalizing drug use and addiction.
The Supreme Court ruling mentioned above made the debate necessary because it tossed out the state’s felony drug possession statute for being unconstitutional. The Supremes said that the law made it a crime for person to unwittingly possess drugs. Lawmakers resolved the issue by passing a legislative stopgap. They made it a misdemeanor for someone to ‘knowingly’ possess drugs. A misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine. The proposed compromise that was shot down Sunday would have raised the penalty for ‘knowing’ drug possession to a gross misdemeanor, not a misdemeanor. A Gross Misdemeanor has a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and a $5,000. Gross Misdemeanors and Misdemeanors are heard in district and municipal courts. Felonies are handled in Superior Court.
The current ‘fix’ is scheduled to expire in July. So, the question is – what happens if the law expires? Governor Inslee could call lawmakers into a special session, or the law could expire, allowing cities and counties to pass their own drug possession ordinances. Time is ticking. There is more to come on this subject, that is for sure.
If you or a loved one is in a bind because of a criminal 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.