Category Archives: Legislation

State Legislature Passes Significant Public Defense Bill

Public Defenders Urge Legislature to Stop Governor from Cutting Successful  Resentencing Program | San Francisco Public Defender's Office

Excellent article in the Seattle Times from journalist Daniel Beekman discussed the passage of Senate Bill 5780. The legislation is a huge win for WA state’s beleaguered criminal legal system. It won early support in the Senate but stalled before last Friday’s deadline to pass the House. Fortunately, it prevailed at the last minute only after a Seattle Times story spotlighted the public defense crisis. It is now headed to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk to be signed into law.


When you’re accused of a crime and don’t have enough money to pay an attorney, the government is supposed to provide you with one. It’s a constitutional right. But many Washington communities are struggling to hire and retain public defenders and to keep up with cases (statewide rules cap the number of cases a defender can handle each year). So some defendants are going without proper representation, even while in jail, and some prosecutions are getting delayed or dismissed. In some places, prosecutors are in short supply, as well.

The crisis exists because the COVID pandemic created backlogs, fewer people are going to law school, young attorneys are choosing other jobs, attorneys certified for high-level felony cases are burning out and policing changes are making cases more time-consuming, among other reasons.

Rural areas and Eastern Washington communities such as Yakima and the Tri-Cities have been hit especially hard, partly because they lack amenities and resources to compete with private sector employers for qualified attorneys. Unlike most other states, Washington relies on its counties to fund their own public defense services, and those costs have grown in recent years.


SB 5780 is meant to combat rampant staffing and caseload challenges that are pushing Washington’s public defense apparatus to the brink of collapse and simultaneously threatening prosecutorial operations. The legislation helps recruit and train more attorneys for crucial jobs in public defense and prosecution.

The bill directs state agencies to set up internship programs for aspiring public defenders and prosecutors in rural and underserved areas. It also directs the agencies to provide training to early-career public defenders and prosecutors. More specifically, SB 5780 calls for the state’s Office of Public Defense to administer a “law student rural defense program.” The program places students and recent graduates as interns with experienced public defenders in underserved communities. Similarly, it calls for the state Criminal Justice Training Commission to oversee a “law student rural prosecution program” placing interns with prosecutors. The interns are supposed to get mentoring, pay and housing stipends, and supervising attorneys may receive some money for their time.

The bill also expands the Criminal Defense Training Academy and the Criminal Justice Training Commission. These organizations train early-career public defenders and prosecutors.

My opinion? The legislation is a step in the right direction. Studies show public defenders face extremely heavy workloads that prevent them from providing effective legal representation to people accused of crimes.

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.

Cannabis Advocates: Biden is Missing an Opportunity Legalize Marijuana

Why Joe Biden's Marijuana Move Is a Midterm 'No Brainer'

The Hill reports that President Biden is missing an opportunity to sway young voters with his reluctance to take bigger steps to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

While campaigning for the White House in 2020, Biden said, “No one should be in jail because of marijuana. As President, I will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions.”

Cannabis advocates say the Biden administration has opened several avenues for marijuana reform. These include issuing federal pardons for simple possession and starting the process of potentially rescheduling marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act from Schedule I to Schedule III.

But those measures have failed to excite advocates. They now say Biden is falling short of his 2020 campaign promises and failing to address the disparate overcriminalization of the drug that has unduly impacted minority communities. Progressive lawmakers in the Senate are urging the administration to go further and completely deschedule the drug. Legalization it would effectively decriminalize it at the federal level, as opposed to rescheduling it.

“Marijuana’s placement in the Controlled Substances Act] has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion,” 12 Democratic lawmakers wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last month.


Public opinion is strongly in favor of marijuana legalization. A Gallup poll from November found a record 70 percent of Americans believed marijuana should be legal.

More recent polling from Lake Research Partners backs up public support for federal marijuana reform, with 58 percent supporting a rescheduling to Schedule III, compared to 19 percent who opposed the move.

“It’s a really strong issue with some constituencies that Democrats really need to increase their support and enthusiasm, specifically young people, African Americans, Democratic base voters, people of color, young men of color,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist who serves as president of Lake Research Partners.

Hayley Matz Meadvin, Executive Vice President of Communications at Precision Strategies and a former Biden administration staffer, noted the “supermajority of support” behind marijuana legalization could help Biden lure in voters across the political spectrum.

“This is a popular issue that motivates voters, and it doesn’t just motivate — it clearly just doesn’t motivate exclusively Democrats. And that will be critical this fall.” ~Hayley Matz Meadvin, Executive Vice President of Communications at Precision Strategies


Biden and Trump, his likely 2024 rival, are polling neck and neck both nationally and in key swing states. The election could come down to a few thousand voters in those states, potentially giving niche issues such marijuana added importance.

Advocates say his actions so far fall short of that promise. And they said he may struggle to clearly communicate any progress on marijuana reform, especially as some actions are left unfinished; the DEA has yet to issue its decision on rescheduling marijuana, and the federal pardons issued last year could not apply to state-level convictions, though Biden has encouraged governors to follow his lead.

While marijuana reform may not be among the issues expected to dominate the 2024 elections, strategists note that smaller issues frequently break through the noise during election cycles.  Perhaps substantial marijuana reform action from Biden would signal to voters he is a “modern president” and could make a difference in states including Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.

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

Animal Cruelty Bill Heads to the Senate

Craven County homeowners charged with animal cruelty after 42 dogs removed, two euthanized | WNCT

On Monday, the Washington House of Representatives passed a proposed bill that would increase penalties for animal cruelty cases. The bill would elevate the punishment for first-degree animal cruelty. The bill passed 95 to 1. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration. State Representative Sam Low, a Republican representing the 39th legislative district, is sponsoring the bill.

“Elevating to a ranked crime would add it to the sentencing guidelines grid, creating consistency for the judges and prosecuting attorneys,” Low said.

“Inconsistency in sentencing only benefits abusers. House Bill 1961 would establish a clear legal framework for these horrific cases, ensuring those who inflict suffering on defenseless animals face consequences that reflect the severity of their crimes . . . Washington state should always stand for justice and compassion for all living beings. Through this bill, we have an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless and deter future acts of cruelty. I am grateful for today’s vote and look forward to seeing the same outcome in the Senate.” ~State Representative Sam Low

The proposed legislation would enhance first-degree animal cruelty to a ranked felony. Ranked felony offenses have a seriousness level assigned to them. In short, higher-ranked offenses bring more serious consequences. These levels range from Level 1 (lowest level) to Level 16 (highest level). For a Level 1 offense, for someone with an offender score of zero, their standard range is 0-2 months, if convicted of the offense. By comparison, a Level 7 felony offense for someone with an offender score of zero, is facing a standard sentencing range of 15-20 months.

Surprisingly, animal cruelty is a complex phenomenon. It involves a multitude of different situational factors, motives, and other potential cause. The most frequently reported forms of animal cruelty are related to neglect. Denial of food, water, and veterinary care occurs in many cases. The most common forms of animal cruelty are the restriction of movement, insufficient food or water, abandonment, neglect, lack of veterinary care, and assault. There is no single type of companion animal cruelty offense, nor is there one typical type of companion animal cruelty offender.

There are, however, defenses to lower-level  charges. For example, it is a defense to a charge of second degree animal cruelty that the defendant’s failure was due to economic distress beyond the defendant’s control. This can happen if the animal’s owner is  indigent, impoverished and/or simply cannot afford to care for the animal.

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.

Should We Ban Hog-Tying By Police?

Report: Most of America's largest police departments allow officers to choke, strangle, and hog-tie people | The Week

King5 News reports that Democratic Sen. Yasmin Trudeau has sponsored a bill banning hog-tying by police. The restraint technique has long drawn concern due to the risk of suffocation, and while many cities and counties have banned the restraint technique, it remains in use in others.

The legislation comes nearly four years after Manuel Ellis, a 33-year-old Black man, died facedown with his hands and feet cuffed together behind him. The case that became a touchstone for racial justice demonstrators in the Pacific Northwest.

Senator Trudeau said she doesn’t want anyone else to experience the “dehumanization” Ellis faced before his death.

“How do we move through the need for folks to enforce the laws, but do it in a way where they’re treating people the way we expect, which is as human beings?” ~Senator Yasmin Trudeau

In the last four years, states across the U.S. have rushed to pass sweeping policing reforms.  The legislation was prompted by racial injustice protests and the death of George Floyd and others at the hands of law enforcement. Few have banned prone restraint, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The attorney general’s office in Washington recommended against using hog-tying in its model use-of-force policy released in 2022. At least four local agencies continue to permit it, according to policies they submitted to the attorney general’s office that year.

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department said it still allows hog-tying but declined to comment on the bill. One of the department’s deputies was involved in restraining Ellis, whose face was covered by a spit-hood when he died.


Trudeau, who represents Tacoma, said she made sure Ellis’ sister, Monet Carter-Mixon, approved of her efforts before introducing the bill. Democratic Sen. John Lovick, who worked as a state trooper for more than 30 years, joined Trudeau in sponsoring the bill. Republican Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, a member of the House public safety committee, said she looked forward to learning more about the legislation.

“If it does turn out that this form of restraint for combative detainees is dangerous in any way, then I think the state should put together a grant and some money to buy and train on alternative methods to make sure that the officer and the person arrested is safe.” ~Republican Rep. Gina Mosbrucker

Please review my Search & Seizur Legal Guide and 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.

Firearms Bill Requiring 10-day Waiting Period & Safety Training In Effect January 1st, 2024

Firearms Safety Course | West Boylston, MA

Effective January 1, 2024, HB 1143 shall go into effect. The legislation imposes additional requirements for the sale and transfer of firearms, including the following provisions:

  • Fingerprinting and background checks are required for all firearm sales and transfers, with some limited exceptions (RCW 9.41.113). Background checks are to be performed through the Washington State Patrol Firearms Background Check Program, a centralized stated system, rather than through local law enforcement agencies.
  • A 10-day waiting period is required between the purchase and delivery of the firearm to the purchaser.
  • The purchaser must provide proof of having completed a recognized firearm safety training program within the last five years.

Proponents of HB 1143 argue the law rightfully requires people to wait the prescribed “cooling off” period even if they’ve passed a more immediate background check. The intent of the legislation is aimed in part at deterring people from rushing to harm themselves or others with newly purchased weapons during periods of sudden distress or anger.

Its requirements are similar to those for a concealed weapons permit. Also, fourteen states have similar requirements and have found that they have reduced fatalities by 14%. The requirements could also interrupt suicide attempts, which are often impulsive decisions. Suicides constitute 75% of gun deaths in Washington.

Opponents say the legislation denies law-abiding citizens their Second Amendment right to acquire firearms unless they present proof of completion of official, sanctioned firearms training within the past five years, which they must complete at their own expense. Also, the 10-day waiting period is arbitrary on prospective gun owners taking possession of their firearms. They say the delay is longer or indefinite if the State fails to complete background check during that time. Finally, the Department of Licensing will also maintain a database (registry) of gun owners and their personal data, despite the agency having previously suffered a data breach affecting 650,000 citizens just last year.

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

WA Attorney General Advises Pawn Shops on Handling Assault Rifles

How does a person buy a gun from a shop? | WFXL

Much confusion has arisen in the wake of WA State’s recent ban on assault rifles. Some thorny legal issues surrounding the changing role of pawn shops and their handling of assault rifles are especially interesting. For instance, if a pawnbroker receives an assault weapon, does the law permit the pawnbroker to return the firearm to the owner on repayment of the loan? And if the owner of a pawned assault weapon defaults on the loan, does the law allow the pawnbroker to sell the firearm?

In AGO 2023 No. 5 (October 5, 2023), the WA Attorney General answered these questions.


 SHB 1240 was signed into law by the governor on April 25, 2023, and became effective immediately. Its stated purpose is to limit the prospective sale of assault weapons, while allowing existing legal owners to retain the assault weapons they currently own. To that end, section 3 of the bill enacts the following prohibition: “No person in this state may manufacture, import, distribute, sell, or offer for sale any assault weapon, except as authorized in this section.” A violation of section 3 is a gross misdemeanor.

Pawnbrokers engage in the business of loaning money on the security of pledges of personal property. The term of a pawnbroker loan is ninety days. The customer may redeem their pledged property at any time during the loan period upon repayment of the loan principal, interest, and associated fees. After the term of the loan, unredeemed property on unpaid loans becomes the property of the pawnbroker.

1. If a pawnbroker receives an assault weapon, does the law permit the pawnbroker to return the firearm to the owner on repayment of the loan?

Yes. The Attorney General opined that the legislature’s express intent in enacting SHB 1240 was to allow existing legal owners to retain the assault weapons they currently own. Within the term of a pawnbroker loan, the pledgor retains ownership of the pledged article and retains the right to redeem the pledge at any time.

“The legislature’s stated intent in enacting SHB 1240 confirms this reading. The stated purpose of SHB 1240 is ‘to limit the prospective sale of assault weapons, while allowing existing legal owners to retain the assault weapons they currently own.’ Laws of 2023, ch. 162, § 1. This enacted statement is included within the plain reading of the statute. See G-P Gypsum Corp., 169 Wn.2d at 310. As RCW 19.60.061 makes clear, the pledgor remains the ‘existing legal owner’ of the assault weapon during the loan period, and thus, consistent with the legislature’s explicit intent, remains entitled to retain the assault weapons they currently own.” ~WA Attorney General.

In other words, a pawnbroker who receives an assault weapon as security for a loan may lawfully return the weapon upon repayment of the loan. Returning the assault rifle to the owner  is not an unlawful “delivery.” It is merely a return of property of which the pawnbroker was a bailee.

2. If the owner of a pawned assault weapon defaults on the loan, does the law allow the pawnbroker to sell the firearm?

No. Pawnbrokers are now prohibited from selling assault weapons they receive as security to a loan. Instead, pawnbrokers may sell assault weapons to the armed forces or to a state law enforcement agency for use by that agency or its employees for law enforcement purposes.

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

New “Blake Fix” Drug Possession Law Takes Effect July 1, 2023

Gov. Jay Inslee signs drug possession law 'fix' | The Reflector

SB 5536, the so-called “Blake Fix,” passed the Washington State Legislature (Legislature) and was signed by Governor Jay Inslee. Its provisions involve the use and possession of drugs. Passage of the bill was welcome news for many Washington cities and counties that were rushing to pass their own ordinances.

The bill makes it a gross misdemeanor to:

  1. Knowingly possess counterfeit substances and controlled substances (hereafter “prohibited substances”); or
  2. Knowingly use prohibited substances in a public place.

This bill covers possession and use of counterfeit or controlled substances, or “hard” drugs such as fentanyl and other opioids, methamphetamine, heroin, and cocaine. Also prohibited is the knowing possession of non-prescribed legend drugs, as well as their knowing use in a public place, both classified as misdemeanors. The bill also creates a pre-trial diversion program and almost completely preempts local regulation of drug paraphernalia.


In February 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court in State v. Blake. The Blake case was immediately mired in controversy.  It declared unconstitutional Washington’s strict liability drug possession law, which criminalized the unintentional, unknowing possession of a controlled substance.

In July 2021 – and in response to the fallout from Blake– the Legislature adopted temporary  legislation making it a misdemeanor to knowingly possess prohibited substances. This temporary legislation required that law enforcement refer the individual to assessment and treatment for their first two arrests for simple possession. Upon the third arrest, the individual could be prosecuted. However, this proved nearly impossible for law enforcement to implement, given that there was no state-wide tracking system for referrals.

Fast forward to the 2022-2023 regular legislative session, which ended without passage of a new drug possession and use law. This challenge placed cities and counties in the unfortunate situation of adopting their own patchwork of possession and use laws. However, in a special session on May 16, 2023, the Legislature adopted permanent drug-related legislation in SB 5536.


Both knowing possession of prohibited substances and knowing use of a prohibited substance in a public place are gross misdemeanors. Gross misdemeanors typically have a maximum imprisonment time of not more than 364 days, plus a fine of not more than $5,000.

Knowing possession and knowing use of a legend drug without a prescription remains a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors have a maximum imprisonment time of not more than 90 days, plus a fine of not more than $1,000. An individual cannot be charged with both possession and use relating to the same course of conduct.

Notably, referral or diversion is no longer required. Nevertheless, law enforcement and prosecutors are encouraged to refer or divert such cases for assessment, treatment, or related services. Rather, both possession and use of controlled and counterfeit substances are punishable by imprisonment of up to 180 days or by a fine of not more than $1,000, or both. If the defendant has two or more prior convictions of possession or use, then imprisonment can be increased to up to 364 days (or the $1,000 fine, or both).


The bill regulates drug paraphernalia as follows:

  • Selling or permitting drug paraphernalia to be sold is a class 1 civil infraction.
  • Giving or permitting drug paraphernalia to be given — previously a class 1 civil infraction — is no longer prohibited.
  • Using drug paraphernalia continues to be a misdemeanor. See RCW 69.50.412(1).
  • Littering or dumping drug paraphernalia continues to be either a civil infraction, a misdemeanor, or a gross misdemeanor, depending on the quantity. See RCW 70A.200.060.

Notably, the definition of drug paraphernalia does not include cannabis-related paraphernalia or drug testing and analyzing equipment. Also, prohibitions on drug paraphernalia do not apply to distribution or use of public health supplies through pharmacies, public health programs, or other authorized community programs.


Many Washington cities and counties have passed ordinances regulating drug possession and use in the absence of permanent state legislation. Those ordinances no longer have any real effect because the state fully occupies and preempts the entire field of setting penalties for violations of the controlled substances act, and local ordinances must be consistent with chapter 69.50 RCW — see RCW 69.50.608. As described in the previous blog section, the state also preempts the field of drug paraphernalia regulation.

However, despite this state preemption, cities must adopt or incorporate state statutes into their municipal code in order to prosecute misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor cases in city municipal court — See City of Auburn v. Gauntt, 174 Wn.2d 321, 274 P.3d 1033 (2012), which held that cities with a municipal court created under chapter 3.50 RCW must prosecute misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors based on city code provisions or RCWs that have been incorporated into the code by reference.


The bill creates a pretrial diversion program for individuals charged with simple possession, where the defendant agrees to meaningfully engage in a treatment program in exchange for the state dismissing the charge. The judge must advise the defendant of a program’s availability at arraignment and the prosecuting attorney must consent to the defendant’s participation. Section 9 of the bill outlines all the details, and the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) article, Blake fix bill passes Legislature during one-day special session, provides additional information about the practicality of pre-trial diversion programs.


Opioid use disorder treatment facilities (with the exception of safe injection sites) are now considered essential public facilities (EPFs). As such, cities and counties can only regulate opioid use disorder treatment facilities in the same manner in which they regulate other EPFs and health care settings. Maximum capacity cannot be imposed on these facilities. See Section 12 of the bill.

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.

Governor Inslee Signs Police Pursuit Bill

Police poised to regain ability to undertake more pursuits |

A new bill Gov. Jay Inslee just signed changes when law enforcement can chase criminals. It gives more latitude to police on when they can initiate a pursuit. Now, police don’t need probable cause of a violent crime to chase a criminal – just reasonable suspicion.

“I believe this is a step forward, a reasonable measure and balance, to ensure public safety.” ~Governor Jay Inslee.

The new law went into effect immediately after the signing.  Law enforcement officials need “reasonable suspicion” for violent and sexual crimes, DUI, domestic violence, and vehicular assault. The previous law, passed in 2021, required law enforcement to have “probable cause” – or hard evidence – of violent and sexual crimes, and DUI.

“With the laws that they put in place before, I could not chase that red car without probable cause, which means I need a license plate, a really specific description of the driver, or something on the vehicle that stands out that says this is the vehicle that committed that crime.” ~Sgt. Darren Moss of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department.

Lawmakers opposed to that say pursuits are just too dangerous for the public to warrant a chase when no one has been hurt.

“Limit police vehicle pursuits to the most serious crimes. Those crimes that don’t involve injury to person can be solved in other manners,” said Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) during session on March 28.

Inslee acknowledged Wednesday that many law enforcement groups are hoping for more changes in the future.  He compared the police pursuit problem to climbing Mount Everest at the bill signing, saying it needs to be addressed step by step.

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

Governor Inslee Signs Legislation Aimed at Preventing Gun Violence

WA Gov. Inslee signs new firearms regulations into law, including limits on  sale of gun magazines | The Seattle Times

Governor Jay Inslee signed three bills into law aimed at preventing gun violence in Washington state. One of the bills signed into law bans assault-style weapons. another requires safety training and a 10-day waiting period before purchasing a firearm. The third is legislation to strengthen accountability of firearm manufacturers and retailers.

“These are three victories, not one, and it is clear why we need to take this action . . . These weapons of war of assault weapons have no reason other than mass murder. Their only purpose is to kill humans as rapidly as possible in large numbers.” ~Gov. Jay Inslee


House Bill 1240 prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution, sale, or offer for sale of any assault weapon” in Washington state. The semi-automatic rifle ban would cover more than 50 gun models, including AR-15s, AK-47s and similar-style rifles, which fire one bullet per trigger pull and automatically reload for a subsequent shot, The Associated Press reported. Some exemptions are included for sales to law enforcement agencies and the military in Washington.

“Gun violence rips loved ones from their families, devastates our communities, and traumatizes our children again and again,” said Rep. Strom Peterson (D-Edmonds) who sponsored HB 1240. “Students everywhere have been speaking up, demanding we do something to protect them. We’ve stepped up to answer them. With the Governor’s signature today, we’re sending a clear message to our kids: we hear you and we are acting to keep you safe.”

The law went into effect immediately after it was signed by Inslee on Tuesday. Gun shop owners now have 90 days to sell their inventory. When the bill passed the state House in March, Inslee said he has believed in it since 1994 when, as a member of the U.S. Congress, he voted to make it a federal law.


House Bill 1143 requires gun buyers to show they’ve taken firearm safety training before purchasing a firearm. The new law also requires a 10-day waiting period for all gun purchases — something that’s already mandatory in Washington when buying a semi-automatic rifle. HB 1143 will go into effect on January 1, 2024.

“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children in our country,” said Rep. Liz Berry (D-Seattle) who sponsored HB 1143. “As a mom of two little ones and as a person who has lost someone who I love to gun violence, this is devastating to me. It’s simple: these bills will save lives.”


Inslee also signed Senate Bill 5078 into law Tuesday. The bill allows people whose family members die from gun violence to sue if a manufacturer or seller “is irresponsible in how they handle, store or sell those weapons.”

Under Washington’s consumer-protection act, the attorney general could file a lawsuit against manufacturers or sellers for negligently allowing their guns to be sold to minors, or to people buying guns legally in order to sell them to someone who can’t lawfully have them. SB 5078 takes effect 90 days after the adjournment of the legislative session.


More than 800 people die from gun violence in Washington state each year, according to the governor’s office. Nine states including California, New York and Massachusetts, along with the District of Columbia, have already passed similar bans. the laws have been upheld as constitutional by the courts.

The ban on some semi-automatic weapon sales drew a quick legal challenge from the Second Amendment Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition. The groups sued in U.S. District Court, saying the law violates the constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

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

House of Representatives Fails to Pass Drug Possession Legislation

Drug possession bill voted down last-minute in Washington state |

On Sunday, the House of Representatives rejected Senate Bill 5536. The legislation would have made the possession and use of hard drugs a gross misdemeanor. The bill failed in the final hours of the current session.

Senate Bill 5536 was introduced as a measure to significantly change drug possession laws. Many of the legislation’s original backers turned against it, citing concerns that the bill has been watered down and could cause more harm than good.

Governor Inslee responded to the results. He believed the bill was going to be the solution for a lot of drug problems in Washington. He also said he expects the legislature to draft another bill that will include pointing people to treatment services and not decriminalizing drugs.

If passed into law,Senate Bill 5536  would have superseded existing public drug use bans in cities like Kent and Bellingham. In addition, an officer would have had to simultaneously witness someone with drugs and using them to make an arrest. Democrats stood by the bill, while Republicans argued it would make things worse.


On Feb. 25, 2021, the Washington Supreme Court issued a decision declaring the state’s main drug possession statute RCW 69.50.4013(1) unconstitutional and “void.” The ruling occurred in a case known as State v. Blake. In 2016, Shannon Blake was arrested in Spokane and convicted of simple drug possession. Blake argued that she did not know there was a baggie of methamphetamine in the jeans she had received from a friend.
The court ruled that the statute violated the due process clause of the constitution. Without any mental state requirement, the law criminalized “unknowing” drug possession and people could be arrested and convicted even if they did not realize they had drugs in their possession. The majority concluded, “The legislature’s police power goes far, but not that far.”
That case held that the state’s law making possession a felony was unconstitutional. The legislature instead classified possession as misdemeanor crimes, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

Numerous mayors from across Washington state, including Auburn Mayor Nancy Backus, agreed that something needs to be done about the rise in public drug use. However, they signed a letter stating that SB 5536 is not the solution. They argued that instead of helping to crack down on the drug crisis, the bill would add more limitations.

“We’re harming people more than we’re helping,” said Backus. “There’s no teeth to it, and it is also preemptive of any local jurisdiction. Yet, despite this vote, lawmakers on both sides are hoping to find a solution that works for everyone.

“I think the important part you are hearing on both sides, which is all together, is that we care. We care,” said Rep. Maycumber.

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.