Category Archives: Legislation

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

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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.

Criminal Justice Bills Passed & Failed in the Senate

2019 Criminal Justice Reform | ACLU West Virginia

Several bills recently passed and failed in the Senate, covering a wide array of issues related to criminal justice. These bills all now head to the House  in the coming weeks as the legislative session reaches month two. Here’s a  summary of some of the bills that passed and failed.

PASSED BILLS

Senate Bill 6442 would ban the operation of private, for-profit prisons in the state, as well as prohibiting the Department of Corrections (DOC) from contracting with these prisons. The bill also limits the circumstances under which the state can transfer an inmate from a Washington facility to an out-of-state private prison or detention facility.

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According to the text of the bill, the legislature found that for-profit prisons prioritize shareholder profits over the provision of health care, safety and nutrition to inmates, among other basic human needs, and that the operation of private prisons runs counter to the state’s mandate to ensure health, safety and welfare of those incarcerated in the state’s criminal justice system. If the bill passes, Washington would join 22 other states in banning for profit prisons.

Senate Bill 5488 would allow judges greater discretion when deciding cases involving adult defendants who are charged with committing a crime while under age 18. The bill grants judges the authority to consider the defendant’s age, lack of sophistication, susceptibility to peer pressure and age at the time the crime was committed.

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Judges overseeing these types of cases could refrain from imposing the mandatory sentencing requirements after considering the circumstances surrounding a defendant’s youth at the time the crime was committed, allowing the judge to impose a lesser sentence than what law requires.

FAILED BILLS

SB 6228, also called the “Felony Voting Rights Bill,” introduced legislation to automatically restore the voting rights of convicted felons when they are released from prison. However, the bill died unexpectedly in the Washington state Senate Wednesday. Majority Democrats abruptly ended debate on the controversial bill Wednesday evening when they realized they lacked the 25 votes needed to pass the measure.

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“We are extremely disappointed that the voting rights restoration bill did not pass,” said the ACLU of Washington in a statement Wednesday evening. “The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy and the time to tear down these barriers is long past due.”

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

End ICE Courthouse Arrests

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Excellent article in Crosscut by  Lilly Fowler describes how the Washington state Legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit federal immigration agents without a warrant from making arrests within one mile of a courthouse.

If signed, the legislation – SB 6522 – would also require judicial warrants to be reviewed by a court before being used. And federal immigration agents would have to check in with local court staff before entering a courthouse. A website monitored by the state Administrative Office of the Courts would track all arrests made at courthouses.

Finally, the bill would prohibit court staff, including prosecutors, from sharing information with federal immigration officials. A recent report from the University of Washington Center for Human Rights revealed that county prosecutors have been sharing information with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Border Patrol agents to facilitate the arrests of undocumented immigrants at state and local courthouses.

As reported by Ms. Fowler, the outcry over immigrants being arrested at courthouses by plainclothes ICE and Border Patrol officials has been persistent. Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the federal government last month in an attempt to stop such arrests, and the state Supreme Court is looking at rules that would bar the apprehensions.

At a hearing on the bill last week before the House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee, legislators heard testimony in Spanish from a man named Carlos. He told lawmakers he and his wife recently visited the courthouse in Ephrata, Grant County, to renew his car’s license plates. While his wife waited in the vehicle, Carlos stood in line inside the courthouse and noticed a man staring at him.

As Carlos exited the courthouse, another man with a gun approached him, introduced himself as a federal immigration official and, in Spanish, said, “Soy la migra” (or “I am ICE/Border Patrol”). Carlos was promptly arrested. Although he was eventually released by the ICE agent, the experience left him shaken and terrified.

Enoka Herat, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington, said the state would not be the first to protect its court system. In November, the Oregon Supreme Court barred warrantless arrests at courthousesCaliforniaNew York and New Jersey have also sought similar protections for immigrants. In Massachusetts, a federal judge barred courthouse arrests while a lawsuit makes its way through the court system.

My opinion?

Let’s hope SB 6522 gains support and passes. The bill  isn’t about hampering the work of law enforcement. It’s about but ensuring the public can use courts to pay fines, serve as witnesses, seek protection orders and pursue other matters related to the justice system, without the fear of unexpected encounters with law enforcement.  Equal access to courts is something both Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree upon.

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.

Felony Voting Rights Bill Pending in WA Legislature

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Excellent article in the Tacoma News Tribune by reporter James Drew describes how Senate Bill 6228 would make about 9,000 felons eligible to vote is moving ahead in the Washington state Legislature, as Democratic senators vow to expand democracy by removing a barrier they say is rooted in systemic racism.

Senate Bill 6228 would make felons automatically eligible to vote once they are released from state prison. Under current law, they are eligible once they have completed community custody — formerly known as probation — and that can take several years.

“The very essence of community custody is to get people back on the right track, to reintegrate them into society and to reduce the chances of re-offending,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Patty Kuderer, a Bellevue Democrat. “Restoring the right to vote and the right to participate in our democracy is an important tool for that reintegration process.”

“Until someone can show me that there’s a good reason to deprive someone of the right to vote because of the commission of a crime, then I will rethink that. But for now, I have seen zero evidence for that.”    ~Senator Patty Kuderer.

Stressing that her bill addresses a “major equality and social justice issue,” Kuderer said blacks and Native Americans are overly represented in the criminal justice system. As a result, they are “disproportionately stripped of their voting rights, diminishing their representation,” she said.

A Senate committee on Friday approved the bill, putting it one step closer to a vote by the Democratic-controlled Senate. If it becomes law, the measure would take effect in 2021.

Senate GOP Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, is opposed to the bill, saying it removes an incentive for felons to fulfill obligations under community custody such as making restitution to crime victims. The bill states that sanctions for violating community custody requirements or failure to pay court costs, restitution to victims, or fines and fees would not take voter eligibility away from a former inmate.

Samuel Merrill, clerk of the criminal justice working group for the Olympia-based Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy, said whites after the Civil War and Reconstruction adopted laws targeting former slaves for felonies to deprive them of their voting rights. The practice continued into the voter suppression laws under Jim Crow — “vestiges of which continue today,” Merrill said.

Supporters of the bill include the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the state Department of Corrections, the ACLU of Washington, and Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

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.