Category Archives: Drug Court

Protecting Pot Shops

Brazen Weed Dispensary Robbery Happened At 4:20 AM | NowThis - YouTube

Great article from King 5 discusses the Washington Senate passing a pot shop protection bill.

Senate Bill 5927 adds a year to a prison sentence of someone convicted of first- or second-degree robbery of a cannabis retailer. It’s the same sentence that is given to someone who robs a pharmacy.

The passage of the bill in the Senate follows rising concerns over violent robberies at cannabis shops. This bill would make improvements for not just the benefit of the retailers themselves, but for the public safety of the community as a whole.

“When people would ask the infamous bank robber Willie Sutton why he robbed banks, Sutton simply replied, ‘Because that’s where the money is.’ Well, that’s why people rob marijuana retailers. Due to federal banking rules, these businesses are almost entirely cash-only operations, making them a target for robberies and a magnet for criminals.” ~Bill sponsor Sen. Jim Honeyford (R-Sunnyside)

Tom Bout, the founder of the Cannabis Professionals Network, made a spreadsheet tracking the crimes he could find records for. He counted more than 30 crimes since November 2021.

A spokesperson for the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board said it has been working to communicate safety guidelines with business owners.

The state Liquor and Cannabis Board said it is communicating these safety tips with cannabis retailers:

  • Hire armed security guards
  • Make frequent cash deposits so there isn’t much cash available in shops
  • Post signs in businesses explaining that staff don’t have access to much cash
  • Clearly communicate safety guidelines with staff so they know what to do in the event of a robbery.

Bout said the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board is not doing enough to protect cannabis retailers.

“They have not communicated with the stores. Like, you’d think that they would put on an alert to let everyone know that this has happened,” he said during a previous interview.

Interesting times, no? Years ago, selling and possessing marijuana was illegal. Nowadays, we’re passing laws bringing enhanced penalties to people who rob our pot shops.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.


Whatcom County Sues Opioid Drug Manufacturer

Image result for sue opioid companies

Impressive article by Kie Relyea of the Bellingham Herald discusses how the Whatcom County Council voted to join a growing legal fight against makers and wholesalers of prescription opioids, saying they have contributed to a public health crisis.

On Tuesday, the County Council decided to retain law firm Keller Rohrback in Seattle, which is representing a number of municipalities including Skagit, Pierce and King counties in Washington state.

The vote was 7-0.

“Pretty broad consensus it was a good thing to do for the county.”

-Council member Todd Donovan.

Relyea reports that the law firm will sue the makers and distributors of opioid painkillers, including Purdue Pharma, Endo Pharmaceuticals, Janssen Pharmaceuticals and other entities.

The law firm has so far filed lawsuits on behalf of five counties in the state, as well as the City of Tacoma.

Whatcom County isn’t paying the law firm, which will be compensated if there’s a judgment against the companies, Donovan said.

The county wants help responding to a public health crisis caused by opioids, according to Donovan.

“They are partially liable for over-prescribing these things and marketing them as non-addictive,” he said. “They should help us in bearing the cost.”

In a separate lawsuit filed in 2017, the state of Washington sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, accusing it of “fueling the opioid epidemic in Washington state.”

My opinion? GOOD. Opioids have turned many law-abiding  and hardworking Americans into drug addicts. A substantial portion of my criminal defense practice is dedicated to helping clients who suffer from drug addictions which force them to commit crimes.  You’d be amazed.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member is addicted to opioids and charged with a crime. The defense of Diminished Capacity may apply. Under this defense, evidence of mental illness or disorder may be taken into consideration in determining whether the defendant had the capacity to form the intent to commit the crime. In some cases, drug addicts lack intent to commit crimes because they are acting under the compulsion of their addiction.

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.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

New DUI Court Helps Native Americans

An Albuquerque, New Mexico court is taking bold and progressive steps in stopping Native Americans from committing DUI.

The newly established Urban Native American Drug Court uses nine months of treatment and supervision instead of incarceration to deter alcoholism. In order to qualify, each defendant must be Native American and have been convicted of more than two DWIs.

“The idea is to try to incorporate some of the traditional beliefs into healing and wellness,” Judge Maria Dominguez said.

Officials said the biggest challenge is a fear of losing their spirituality. David Lente, a Native American substance abuse counselor in Albuquerque, provides the therapeutic component of the program by integrating activities cultural activities, like talking circles and community service projects. The hope is to reconnect Native American defendants with the positive aspects of their culture.

Court officials said drug court, as a whole, is a much more effective tool than jail time. They said only 6 percent of those who participate end up getting arrested again for drunken driving.

My opinion? This program is an excellent progressive step forward. Typically, alcohol abuse is symptomatic of something much worse taking place within the abuser. They may be suffering with physical, mental, emotional and/or spiritual health issues and using alcohol to self-medicate. Kudos to Judge Dominguez in the continued success of this program.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

State v. Drum: Good Decision Regarding Stipulated Evidence At Drug Court Trials

What's good 'evidence-based' practice for classrooms? We asked the  teachers, here's what they said | EduResearch Matters

In State v. Drum, the WA Supreme Court held a trial court may find a defendant NOT GUILTY if it determines that the stipulated evidence does not establish all of the elements of a crime beyond all reasonable doubt.

Patrick Drum entered into a contract to participate in drug court, which provided for the eventual dismissal of a Residential Burglary charge if  Drum  successfully completed a substance abuse treatment program.  The contract required Drum to stipulate that the facts set forth in the investigation reports, witness statements, and laboratory tests were true and sufficient to support a finding of guilt.

After waiting in custody for 42 days for a bed to open up at a treatment facility, Drum requested to leave the drug court program.  He had a bench trial.  The judge found him guilty based on the evidence that was stipulated when Mr. Drum entered the contract.

Here, the WA Supremes reasoned that by entering a drug court contract, a defendant is NOT giving up his right to an independent finding of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  A trial court still has the authority to find the defendant not guilty if it determines that the stipulated evidence does not establish all elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.  Finally, if a trial court independently reviews the evidence and makes findings, a stipulated drug court agreement is NOT the equivalent of a guilty plea.


For those who don’t know, Drug Courts are programs that divert nonviolent, drug-related offenders into intensive treatment programs with the  goal of encouraging offenders  into a productive, drug-free lifestyle.  In general, offenders participate in required drug treatment and counseling, find work, meet with corrections officers, attend regular visits with a judge, and meet any other conditions set by the court.  Personal involvement by the drug court judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and treatment providers is cited as the key to the success of drug courts.

Drug Court is a privilege.  It’s difficult to get into.  A defendant must be evaluated and found a good candidate by the evaluator, prosecutor and judge.  To gain entry, defendant must also stipulate – essentially, agree – to the truth of the evidence alleged against them in the police reports.  Worst-case scenario; if defendants either quit or are kicked out of Drug Court, then they have already waived their right to a jury trial, waived their right to challenge the evidence through direct/cross examination of witnesses, and essentially waived their presumption of innocence.  Ouch.

State v. Drum gives judges broad discretion to review the truth and veracity of the “stipulated evidence.”  In other words, judges may consider whether the State can prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.  Best-case scenario for a defendant, it appears they have a chance to get a case acquitted by a judge upon leaving Drug Court.

Practically speaking, the likelihood of an acquittal is slim.  Drug Courts are highly political venues.   Indeed, look at how the WA Supreme Justices voted, it was a SLIM 5-4 majority.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Amid Recession Meth Menace Evolves

Crystal meth: Europe could now see a surge in supply and use

Apparently, the meth problem has grown in the face of dwindling State/County budgets.

My opinion?  It makes sense.  My last blog discussed how heroin use increased in Whatcom County.  Similarly, I would expect meth use to increase as well.  It’s a sad state of affairs.  We’ve all felt the crunch of this economy: people lose their jobs, financial situations seem hopeless, we need to feel better, and, for some, drugs provide the outlet.

Know this: meth is a particularly nasty drug bringing particularly nasty consequences.  Under Washington’s Sentencing Reform Act (SRA), a person with no criminal history is exposed to 12-20 months PRISON for delivering methamphetamine.  RCW 69.50.401(2)(b).  Meth charges are also classified as Class B felonies, which are serious felonies under the SRA.  Finally, delivery charges automatically prohibit a defendant from entering Drug Court.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Heroin Use On the Rise in Whatcom County

Google Searches Could Predict Heroin Overdoses - Scientific American

Unfortunately, heroin use is increasing in Whatcom County.

The evidence?  Increased demand for outpatient rehab has more than doubled, needle exchanges increased 36 percent for spring/summer compared to the same time last year at the county Needle Exchange Program, the number of jail inmates going through heroin withdrawals has increased 7 to 10 percent, arrests for heroin use and sale have increased, and more people are entering rehab.

The theories behind the increase?  The drug doesn’t have to be injected anymore, it’s fairly easy to get, addicts are getting younger and, in a recession, it’s cheaper than drugs that offer similar highs.

My opinion?  The article appears spot-on.  I’ve certainly seen a spike in heroin charges filed against defendants.  I only hope that abusers get help as soon as possible.  The Whatcom County Drug Task Force is VERY experienced at investigating/busting drug rings.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face Drug Offenses or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Drug Courts Huge Success

What You Need to Know About Drug Court and Addiction
A National Study found that Drug Courts are widely successful. Here’s a summary of the study’s findings:

Graduates of drug courts are less likely to be rearrested than persons processed through traditional court mechanics. Findings from drug court evaluations show that participation in drug courts results in fewer rearrests and reconvictions, or longer periods between arrests.


Nationwide, drug courts save taxpayer dollars compared to simple probation and/or incarceration, primarily due to reductions in arrests, case processing, jail occupancy and victimization costs. While not all persons diverted to drug court would have otherwise been sentenced to prison, for those individuals who are incarcerated, the average annual cost is estimated to be $23,000 per inmate, while the average annual cost of drug court participation is estimated to be $4,300 per person.


The study showed that Drug Courts which reward/sanction all levels of good/bad behavior recognize there is value in incremental progress toward the goal of abstinence.

A participant who faithfully makes all court appearances and meets the obligations of the court may be rewarded with an acknowledgement of accomplishment.  On the other hand, developing a flexible, graduated sanction program is a crucial contributor to a successful drug court program, because even those who are eventually successful in drug court tend first to relapse, warrant, and violate other program rules.

The study concluded that sanctioning should be seen as an opportunity to adjust treatment to limit subsequent relapse, rather than the first step on the path to an eventual termination of drug court participation and a likely sentence to custody.


One of the unique aspects of the drug court model is the frequency with which judges interact with participants. The relationship is less formalistic than in traditional courtrooms and is individualized based on the judge’s supervision of an individual’s progress.  The goal is partnership, not sentencing. 
My opinion?  I’m a HUGE fan of drug court!  First, it’s a great negotiating alternative for my clients facing drug charges IF the prosecutor’s charges are fairly strong, evidence is unlikely to be suppressed, and a jury would probably find the offender guilty. 
Second, it’s impossible to treat drug addiction with jail or prison sentences.  Period.  Once released, the offender may likely continue using drugs.  Drug Court strikes at the root of the problem by addressing the drug addiction itself.  Finally, the program forces offenders to stay focused on treatment.  The State monitors treatment.  If offenders fail, they may face heavy consequences and get kicked out of Drug Court.
Drug Court should be implemented to a greater degree than it already is.  It presents a win/win situation for everyone: the public, courts, prosecutors, and ultimately the offender.
Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face a Drug Offense or any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.