Category Archives: I-502

State Senate Passes Bill Making Fourth DUI a Felony.

Image result for dui and politics

The WA State Senate has unanimously passed a bill that would make driving under the influence (DUI) a felony if the driver has three or more prior offenses on their criminal record within 10 years.

Senate Bill 5037 passed Thursday and now heads to the House, where it has stalled in previous years. The bill’s sponsors are as follows: Padden, Frockt, O’Ban, Darneille, Miloscia, Kuderer, Zeiger, Carlyle, Pearson, Conway, Rolfes, Palumbo, Angel, and Wellman.

Under the measure, a person who is charged with a fourth DUI, and has no other criminal history, would be subject to a standard sentencing range of 13 to 17 months in jail.

However, this bill allows first-time felony offenders to spend up to six months in jail, instead of nine, and finish out the rest of their sentence under supervision, such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other programs.

My opinion? We shouldn’t be surprised. Over the past 20 years, Americans have seen a significant increase in the harsh penalties for intoxicated drivers. Perhaps this is necessary move given the thousands of lives lost to drunk drivers. Speaking as a criminal defense attorney, there’s serious question as to whether people commit these violations purely out of willful disregard for the law and for the safety of others or because of an untreated mental illness or alcohol addiction. Nevertheless, public outcry has led to increased sentences.

Many attorneys in Whatcom County and Skagit County claim to represent clients in DUI cases, but not all attorneys have the experience and successes of attorney Alexander F. Ransom.  To learn more about DUI laws or if you have been charged with a driving offense, make your first call count. Call the Law Office of Alexander F. Ransom today.

Trump v. Marijuana Legalization

Image result for trump and. marijuana

Officials in Washington state, where recreational marijuana is legal, vow to fight any federal crackdown on marijuana after White House spokesman Sean Spicer vowed to increase enforcement of anti-pot laws. Apparently, President Donald Trump does not oppose medical marijuana, Spicer added, but “that’s very different than recreational use, which is something the Department of Justice will be further looking into.”

In response, Bob Ferguson, attorney general in Washington state, said the following : “We will resist any efforts to thwart the will of the voters in Washington,” Ferguson said Thursday.

Trump’s enforcement of federal laws against marijuana steps away from marijuana policy under the Obama administration, which said in a 2013 memo that it would not intervene in states’ marijuana laws as long as they keep the drug from crossing state lines and away from children and drug cartels.

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

“Our state’s efforts to regulate the sale of marijuana are succeeding,” they wrote in the letter, which was released Thursday. “A few years ago, the illegal trafficking of marijuana lined the pockets of criminals everywhere. Now, in our state, illegal trafficking activity is being displaced by a closely regulated marijuana industry that pays hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. This frees up significant law enforcement resources to protect our communities in other, more pressing ways.”

Spicer’s comments came the same day a Quinnipiac poll said 59 percent of Americans think marijuana should be legal and 71 percent would oppose a federal crackdown. Also, three presidents over the last 20 years have each concluded that the limited resources of the Justice Department are best spent pursuing large drug cartels, not individual users of marijuana.

Nevada state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in a statement Thursday that meddling in recreational pot laws would be federal overreach and harm state coffers that fund education.

My opinion?
I’m surprised Mr. Trump doesn’t see the financial benefits of legalizing marijuana for recreational use. In Washington state, sales at licensed pot shops now average nearly $4.4 million per day — with little evidence of any negative societal effects. That’s close to $1 billion in sales so far for the fiscal year that began last July, some $184 million of which is state tax revenue. Trump is a business man. If the facts are true, then why not allow states to regulate the issue within their borders? Better yet, why not legalize marijuana on the federal level?

What Happened After Voters Legalized Recreational Marijuana?

Reporter Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wrote an article discussing how that the availability of recreational marijuana — in Colorado and elsewhere — is having little to no effect on teens’ propensity to smoke weed.

COLORADO

In his article, Ingraham supports his claim with the official statistics out of Colorado through 2015. It’s also what federal data shows nationwide through this year. And it’s also backed up by other federal surveys of drug use in the states where marijuana is legal.

It appears the data on this point has been consistent enough that longtime skeptics of the merits of marijuana legalization, like Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, are expressing surprise at the findings. “We had predicted based on the changes in legalization, culture in the U.S. as well as decreasing perceptions among teenagers that marijuana was harmful that [accessibility and use] would go up,” Volkow told U.S. News and World Report earlier this month. “But it hasn’t gone up.”

WASHINGTON

However, a study out Tuesday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics flies somewhat in the face of the new conventional marijuana wisdom. Examining marijuana use among high school students in Washington state two years before and after the vote to legalize in 2012, it finds that rates of marijuana use increased by about 3 percent among 8th- and 10th-graders over that period.

INTERPRETING THE FINDINGS

The authors posit that reduced stigma about marijuana use is one factor leading to the results that they observed.

“Our study suggests that legalization of marijuana in Washington reduced stigma and perceived risk of use,” said lead author Magdalena Cerdá of the University of California in Davis in a news release, “which could explain why younger adolescents are using more marijuana after legalization.”

The findings are something of a puzzle. The study found no change in marijuana use among 12th-graders in Washington state, which the authors said could be because the 12th-graders in the study were old enough that “they had already formed attitudes and beliefs related to marijuana use” before the legal change.

The study also found no change in use among students at any grade level in Colorado. The authors write that Colorado had a robust medical marijuana industry in place well before full legalization, which may have affected youth attitudes and behaviors there before the study period.

Among adolescents, the perceived harmfulness of marijuana has been declining for decades among all age groups. But at the same time, adolescent use of marijuana has been flat or falling. This has led some researchers, including Mark Kleiman of New York University, to rethink the nature of the link between what teens think about weed and whether they use it.

In an email, Kleiman pointed out that in Washington state, the recreational marijuana market didn’t open until halfway through 2014, and then only in limited form. That’s halfway through the “after” period (2013 to 2015) in the JAMA Pediatrics study.

“The effect of the legalization initiatives themselves on price and availability of cannabis really wasn’t felt until after” the study’s surveys were done, Kleiman said. “Any measured effect would be more likely the result of the political campaign around legalization than legalization itself.”

Indeed, the study’s authors agree with that assessment. “Simply legalizing an activity can change people’s views about it and can change their behaviors as well,” said co-author Deborah Hasin of Columbia University in an email.

 

Court Reverses Pot Conviction

 

In State v. Rose, the WA Court of Appeals Division III decided to reverse Mr. Rose’s conviction for Possession of Marijuana because Washington’s general criminal prosecution saving statute does NOT permit a prosecution for less than 1 ounce of marijuana that was pending when Initiative 502 became effective.

On June 26, 2012, defendant Justin Rose was fishing on the Yakima River below the Roza Dam when he and his companions were approached by a Washington Fish and Wildlife agent interested in checking for their fishing licenses. The Fish and Wildlife agent noticed that Mr. Rose was smoking. Based on the agent’s training and experience, he believed Mr. Rose was smoking marijuana from a bong. When the agent told Mr. Rose what he had seen, Mr. Rose admitted he had been smoking marijuana and handed over the bong, which contained some marijuana, to the agent. Mr. Rose was over age 21 at the time. He was charged with one violation of RCW 69.50.4014 (possession of less than 40 grams of marijuana) and one violation of former RCW 69.50.412(1) (2002) (use of drug paraphernalia).

In October 2012, Mr. Rose entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the State, staying the prosecution. For those who don’t know, a deferred prosecution is an agreement between someone who is charged with a crime and the State Attorney’s Office. This agreement will require that within a specified period of time, the person charged with a crime will complete all requirements in the agreement. The State agreed that if Mr. Rose complied with the conditions. identified in the agreement for one year, it would move to dismiss both charges. The conditions imposed on Mr. Rose included performing community service, paying a fee and costs, obtaining an alcohol and drug evaluation, and fully complying with any recommendation of alcohol or drug treatment or other services resulting from the evaluation.

Initiative 502 came into effect while Mr. Rose’s case was pending. The law unconditionally decriminalized possession of less than one ounce of marijuana by persons 21 and over, and did remove marijuana paraphernalia from the unlawful categories of paraphernalia.

Unfortunately, Mr. Rose  violated the conditions of his deferral agreement by failing to enter into an intensive outpatient treatment program. The district court revoked the agreement, proceeded to a bench trial, and found Mr. Rose guilty of both counts.

Before sentencing, Mr. Rose moved to dismiss the charges based on the decriminalization of his offenses by I-502. The district court denied Mr. Rose’s motion. It recognized that RCW 10.01.040 – which provides that offenders are prosecuted under the laws in effect at the time of their offenses – does not apply if intervening legislation conveys a contrary intent. It sentenced Mr. Rose to 180 days confinement. Mr. Rose appealed to the Superior Court, which upheld his convictions. In response, he successfully appealed his case to the WA Court of Appeals.

The WA Court of Appeals reversed Mr. Rose’s convictions. It acknowledged that  although the common law provides that pending cases be decided according to the law in effect at the time of the decision, the Washington legislature adopted a criminal prosecution saving statute, now codified at RCW 10.01.040, whose saving clause “presumptively ‘save[s]’ all offenses already committed and all penalties or forfeitures already incurred from the effects of amendment or repeal,” requiring that they be prosecuted under the law in effect at the time they were committed “unless,” as the statute provides, “a contrary intention is expressly declared in the amendatory or repealing act.”

Here, the WA Court of Appeals sought to reconcile these countervailing laws.

The Court reasoned that in this case – and unlike actual laws written legislatures – we are dealing with an initiative to the legislature:

“While standard rules of statutory construction apply, our concern is with the intent of the voters. The issue is whether an intent by the voters to apply its decriminalization provisions to stop pending prosecutions is fairly conveyed by the initiative.”

The Court further reasoned that we look at the language of 1-502 from the perspective of the average informed lay voter rather than from the perspective of the legislature. It acknowledged that average lay voters presented with an initiative that they are told will stop treating adult marijuana use as a crime are more likely to make the assumption that prosecution will be stopped on the effective date. Consequently, and in these rare cases where legislation includes additional language that conveys disapproval or concern about continued prosecution, the Court felt compelled to respect the intent of the voters.

My opinion? Good decision. Washington General Criminal Prosecution Saving Statute should not allow prosecutors to enforce archaic laws which were ultimately killed by the will of the voters. Period. Kudos to Division III.