Category Archives: Legislation

When Rap Lyrics Are Used Against You In Court.

Why Are Rap Lyrics Being Used As Evidence in Court?

Journalist Sam Levins reports that California could soon limit the admissibility of rap lyric evidence at trial.

Last week, California lawmakers passed new regulations meant to restrict such use of rap lyrics as evidence in criminal court, the first-of-its-kind legislation expected to become law in the US. Experts say that although the impact of the new policy will be narrow, it is a step forward in putting guardrails on a prosecutorial practice that all too often has worked to criminalize the artistic expression of young Black and Latino men.

THE HISTORY BEHIND ADMITTING RAP LYRICS AS EVIDENCE AT TRIAL.

According to the article, more than 500 reported cases of prosecutors using rap music as evidence against defendants. The practice started to surge in the 2000s, when authorities began to rely on social media in cases against amateur rappers.

The lyrics are typically cited to suggest “gang affiliation”, proof of crimes and intent, or demonstrate a rapper’s “violent” character or threats. The strategy was used against famous artists like Snoop Dogg in the 1990s, Drakeo the Ruler in 2018 and Tekashi 6ix9ine in 2019.

Professor Jack Lerner, a University of California, Irvine Law School professor, is an expert on the subject. He says the tactic is used across the nation. Apparently, the American Prosecutors Research Institute released a 2004 manual encouraging the use of lyrics in search warrants and trials.

RAP MUSIC ON TRIAL.

Although there are rare cases where words or music videos may be linked to specific criminal offenses, experts say research shows their use in court has often worked to prejudice jurors against young men of color.

Multiple studies have found that associating defendants with rap music creates a strong negative bias in jurors. People are significantly more likely to perceive lyrics as violent, offensive, dangerous and literal if they are from rap, compared to other genres.

Researchers have also found widespread examples of prosecutors taking lyrics out of context, presenting them in inaccurate and misleading ways, treating fictional lines as facts or confessions and using music to expand charges and secure convictions and lengthy sentences.

“Prosecutors talk to each other and see this is a very effective tactic, and that it’s unlikely to be reversed on appeal. So why wouldn’t you do this if your goal is to lock people up, whether they’re guilty or not?” ~Dr. Erik Nielson, University of Richmond Professor

CALIFORNIA’S PROPOSED LAW BANNING THE ADMISSION OF RAP LYRIC EVIDENCE AT TRIAL.

The new California law places limits on when prosecutors can cite defendants’ “creative expression” in court. It applies to all genres of music, dance, film and other art forms, though the law acknowledges that using rap lyrics in particular creates a substantial risk of prejudice. Reggie Jones-Sawyer is the California state representative behind the bill.

The law requires judges to hold a hearing without the jury present to consider the admissibility of the evidence and whether it would “inject racial bias into the proceedings”.

A pending bill in New York introduced earlier this year would prohibit rap lyrics unless there was “convincing proof that there is a literal, factual nexus between the creative expression and the facts of the case”.

Federal lawmakers have introduced legislation similar to California’s bill, and the Recording Academy and major labels have backed the reforms.

WASHINGTON LAW ON CHARACTER EVIDENCE.

Under Evidence Rule 404, evidence of any other crime, wrong, or act is generally not admissible as character evidence. However, the evidence may be admissible for another purpose, such as proving motive, opportunity, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, absence of mistake, or lack of accident.  Judges typically apply a balancing test  to determine whether character evidence is relevant, probative or prejudicial.

My opinion? Let’s hope California’s legislation passes. This is a viable way to stop overzealous prosecutors from using creative expression, which should never be prohibited.

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

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.

 

Fleeing a Crime Scene

Savannah Police Sing To Their Suspect When They Catch Him | Police humor, Savannah chat, Men in uniform

Are Washington’s new search and seizure laws allowing suspects to flee crime scenes?

According to journalist , police may regain authority to use force to stop people fleeing crime scenes. The newly proposed HB 2037 allows police to use physical force if people flee from these brief investigative detentions.

HB 2037 arrives after HB 1310 was recently enacted to regulate use-of-force tactics by police. HB 1310 forbids police officers from using force to detain someone unless they have enough evidence to arrest them. Before last year’s reforms, police could use force, including handcuffs, to detain someone briefly while they sought out more evidence.

Law enforcement officials say HB 1310 prevents them from investigating a crime scene before people scatter. However, defenders of HB 1310 say people might run from police out of fear, not guilt, and racial bias could play a role in their detention.

Radil reports that Angelina Smalls is the sister of Bennie Branch, who was killed by Tacoma police in 2019. She spoke against the new bill at the legislature this week.

“Because Bennie fled, under HB 2037, police would have authority to use force to stop him . . . I think House Bill 2037 is an invitation for abuse by police officers. Legislators should be protecting communities from needless violence, not creating more opportunities for police to harm people.” ~Angelina Smalls

DeRay McKesson, co-founder of the national police reform group Campaign Zero, also spoke against the bill. He said physical force still turns into deadly force too easily, and police can track down the person when they have more evidence.

Democrats who helped pass the police reform laws say they’ve been traveling the state, hearing from law enforcement, victims of crime and affected families.

Please review my Search and Seizure Legal Guide for more information on this topic. And 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.

Policing Mental Health

Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and  Prisons | HRW

Excellent article in the Olympian by reporter Brandon Block describes how the Washington State Attorney General’s Office is refuting claims by police departments that new reform legislation – HB 1310 – prevents them responding to non-criminal calls.

confidential memo issued by an Assistant Attorney and a Deputy Solicitor states the following:

“Washington statutes and case law recognize responding to community caretaking calls as part of a law enforcement officer’s duties . . . Bill 1310 does not prohibit peace officers from responding to community caretaking calls, including mental health calls.” ~Assistant Attorney General Shelley Williams and Deputy Solicitor General Alicia O. Young

Police departments across the state have announced drastic cuts to service and characterized those decisions as a response to a series of police reform and accountability laws that went into effect on July 25. Much of the discrepancy in interpretations has centered on HB 1310, which sets a statewide standard for police use of force and establishes an expectation of “reasonable care” for officers.

HB 1310 allows police to use physical force when necessary to make an arrest or prevent an escape, or when there is “an imminent threat of bodily injury” to the officer, person in question, or someone else. It directs officers to exhaust all possible de-escalation tactics before using force. It also directs police to use the least amount of force needed to overcome resistance, and take into account the characteristics of the person, such as whether they are pregnant, a minor, or are cognitively impaired.

The bill offers a list of possible tactics, including taking as much time as needed, repositioning, calling for backup or additional resources such as mental health workers, or leaving the scene “if there is no threat of imminent harm and no crime has been committed, is being committed, or is about to be committed.”

Some law enforcement officials — including the police chiefs in Olympia and Lacey — have interpreted those limitations on use-of-force as instructions not to engage with people until they witness a crime being committed.

“Nothing in the statute’s plain language indicates that specifying permissible uses of force prohibits an officer from responding to community caretaking calls,” the memo reads. “An interpretation that Bill 1310 limits or prohibits law enforcement officers from responding to calls that do not involve a crime — such as community caretaking calls to render aid — is contrary to legislative intent to preserve and protect all human life.”

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.

Decriminalize Personal Use

Image result for decriminalize drugs

On Thursday, Washington lawmakers introduced House Bill 1499. This bill would work to decriminalize personal use of drug possession and expand treatment and support services. The bill is sponsored by State Rep. Lauren Davis, a 32nd District Democrat from Shoreline, who represents portions of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

According to the Washington State Department of Health, an average of two people die from an opioid overdose every day in the state.

HB 1499, called the Pathways to Recovery Act, was introduced by Davis and co-sponsor Rep. Kirsten Harris-Talley, D-Seattle, It’s supported by various medical advocacy and civil rights organizations like Treatment First Washington, Care First Washington and Washington Recovery Alliance.

“The opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection . . . In all my years of work in this field, I can say that what keeps people from seeking treatment boils down to two things: one, they don’t believe recovery is possible for them, and two, they don’t believe they’re worthy of recovery.” ~WA State Rep. Lauren Davis

In short, the bill itself decriminalizes personal-use amounts of drugs. The decriminalization part is based on the widening belief that jail time and legal consequences often present more problems than rehabilitative solutions for people suffering from addiction, creating a vicious cycle.

“The Legislature finds that substance use disorder is among the only health conditions for which a person can be arrested for displaying symptoms.” the bill reads. “People use drugs to escape the painful reality of their lives and circumstances, including trauma that’s never had a chance to heal.”

According to Davis, building this new continuum of care would be funded piecemeal from a federal substance abuse block grant, money obtained through opioid manufacturing lawsuits and state general funds saved from expected reductions in the Department of Corrections budget needs.

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

Banning Armed Protests

Michigan Cancels Legislative Session to Avoid Armed Protesters - Bloomberg

The Washington State Capitol has long been the site of armed and unarmed protests. Until recently, armed protests at the Capitol have taken place without violence, bloodshed or gunfire.

In December, however, shots were fired at two clashes between demonstrators who were pro-former President Donald Trump and counterdemonstrators near the Capitol grounds, injuring one person. Consequently, lawmakers are considering a bill that would ban the open carry of firearms on Capitol grounds and at other public demonstrations.

Senate Bill 5038 would make it a gross misdemeanor to open carry firearms and other weapons at the state Capitol campus, legislative meetings and within 1,000 feet of a public demonstration. The bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Patty Kuderer, D-Bellevue, said that an increase in armed vigilantism is becoming an alarming trend.

Kuderer argues that her bill would ensure that weapons are not used to intimidate peaceful demonstrators, and would decrease the potential for lethal violence.

“The purpose of open carrying a weapon at a protest is to intimidate people . . . It only serves to increase the risk of violence or death. And we’ve seen over the past several years armed groups engage with peaceful protestors, and sometimes with deadly consequences.” ~Sen. Patty Kuderer

According to Washington State Patrol spokesperson Chris Loftis, there have been 149 unpermitted demonstrations or events at the Capitol since COVID-19 restrictions went into effect in the spring.

Washington is an open-carry state, but the Capitol would be added to a list of places where firearms are already banned, including jails, courtrooms, airports, schools and mental health facilities.

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

No More Police Chokeholds

emi koyama (@emikoyama) | Twitter

Excellent article by Melissa Luck of the yaktrinews.com reports that House Bill 1054 would limit law enforcement officers from using controversial police tactics like chokeholds and tear gas.

Police Reform Legislation

House Democrats to propose reforms targeting police misconduct ...U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) kneel with Congressional Democrats during a moment of silence to honor George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and othe

Great article by Jacob Pramuk of CNBC reports that House Democrats unveiled a bill to overhaul police practices as Americans mass daily to protest excessive use of force and systemic racism.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate released the legislation two weeks after the death of George Floyd, the black, unarmed man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The killing sparked nationwide furor over sustained brutality against black Americans. His death added to a string of recent killings of black men and women that has led to perhaps the biggest reckoning over racism in the U.S. in decades.

Before introducing the bill, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and other top Democrats will first gather in the Capitol in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time an officer knelt of Floyd’s neck.

The Democratic legislation would make sweeping changes designed both to deter police use of force and hold officers more accountable for abuses. The federal bill comes as changes start at the local level: most of the Minneapolis city council committed to disbanding and replacing the city’s police force Sunday, while New York City will consider a range of law enforcement reforms.

The bill “establishes a bold, transformative vision of policing in America,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Karen Bass, D-Calif. She said Americans should not have to witness “the slow murder of an individual by a uniformed police officer.” Bass added that the bill has more than 200 co-sponsors in both chambers of Congress.

Here’s some of what congressional Democrats’ bill would do, according to summaries obtained by NBC News and the Associated Press:

  • Reform “qualified immunity” for officers, making it easier for people whose constitutional rights were violated to recover damages
  • Change the federal standard of criminal police behavior from “willful” to acting “knowingly or with reckless disregard,” to address the difficulty of prosecuting officers
  • Start a federal registry of police misconduct and require states to report use of force to the U.S. Justice Department
  • Ban police use of chokeholds and carotid holds, and condition funding for state and local departments on barring the practices
  • Stop the use of “no-knock” search warrants in drug cases in the U.S., while also making state and local money contingent on stopping use of the warrants
  • Give the Justice Department subpoena power to carry out “pattern and practice” investigations into police department conduct
  • Provide state attorneys general with grants to carry out pattern and practice probes and create a process for independent investigations into uses of force
  • Require training on racial bias and implicit bias at the federal level, and condition state and local funding on offering training
  • Curb transfers of military-grade weapons to state and local police
  • Classify lynching as a federal hate crime

According to NBC News, the legislation offers money for only two components: the requirement to track and report use of force and the investigations by state attorneys general, according to NBC News.  The Democratic plan did not meet many activists’ demands to slash — or entirely cut — police funding.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said that “in the Senate, Democrats are going to fight like hell” to pass the legislation. He called on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring the bill to the Senate floor and hold a debate on it “before July.”

A White House spokesman did not immediately comment on whether President Donald Trump would back the legislation. On Monday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said “the president must not stand in the way of justice.”

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.

Washington State Bans ‘Gay Panic’ Defense of Homicide

Kuhnhausen, 17, disappeared in early June and her remains were discovered Dec. 7, southeast of Battle Ground. A Vancouver man was charged with second-degree murder and malicious harassment, which is a hate crime in Washington. He has pleaded not guilty. Authorities said the Vancouver teenager was strangled after her assailant learned she was transgender.

The new law blocks a defendant from using a defense based on discovery or disclosure of the victim’s actual or perceived gender identity or sexual orientation and would prevent a claim of Diminished Capacity because the defendant did not fully comprehend the nature and gravity of the alleged crime.

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

Anti-Swatting Bill

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The WA Legislature has introduced SB 6295, which aims to cut down on swatting by increasing criminal penalties for those who make a false report they know is likely to generate an emergency response.

For those who don’t know, “swatting” is a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service (via such means as hoaxing an emergency services dispatcher) into sending a police and emergency service response team to another person’s address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or a false report of a “mental health” emergency, such as reporting that a person is allegedly suicidal or homicidal and may or may not be armed.

The legislation is introduced by Senator Jesse Salomon. With “swatting” incidents on the rise, local law enforcement agencies like the Seattle Police Department are developing creative solutions to address the problem. However, Salomon believes state laws have not kept up with the severity of these crimes and need to be updated.

Under the proposed bill, punishments would be increased if there’s a reckless disregard for the safety of others and someone is hurt or killed as a result of the swatting attack. The measure also allows swatting victims to pursue civil damages from their attackers.

Senators SalomonPedersenCarlyleKudererWilson, C.Randall, and Nguyen supported the bill along with companion bill HB 2632.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member face criminal charges of Harassment. Hiring a competent, effective defense attorney is the first and best step toward getting justice.