Category Archives: Legislation

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.

State Lawmakers Approve Police Pursuits

10 crazy Southern California police car chases - Los Angeles Times

This week, Senate Bill 5352 passed with a vote of 26-22. This legislation would lower the requirements for police pursuits passed the Washington state Senate on Monday. In recent public statements, Governor Inslee indicated that he would approve the new law.

If signed, police may engage in a pursuit if they have “reasonable suspicion” a person has committed or is committing a violent or sexual crime. These crimes include Assault, DV cases, Vehicular Assault and DUI. Following the bill’s passage, law enforcement agencies have greater ability to pursue people during and immediately after a crime.

“It allows us to use our training, experience in judgement in making these difficult decisions in whether to pursue somebody or not . . . It allows us just those few extra tools to deal with these situations.” ~Marco Monteblanco, Washington State Fraternal Order of Police.

Under the current law, police can only chase a suspect when they have proof of a crime involving violence, a sex crime, or a DUI.  As a result, law enforcement agencies argued that current restrictions give criminals confidence to flee and lead to more crime.

Opponents like State Representative Darya Farivar (D-Seattle)  said police chases are too dangerous and do not always result in arrests.

“It’s a risk for absolutely everyone,” she said.  “It’s everyone from the subject of the pursuit, to the passenger in the vehicle, to bystanders, to law enforcement.”

Rep. Farivar added that she also opposed the new legislation because she said minorities and underprivileged groups are often disproportionally targeted by police.

“It’s not just the individual who may or may not be at fault of something (to be impacted by police pursuits). There are a lot of people who can be hurt,” she said.

In 2021, Olympia legislators passed House Bill 1054, which barred high-speed pursuits except in very limited circumstances.

The law was included in a series of police reforms passed in response to the murder of George Floyd and other high-profile police killings. The reforms were aimed at addressing racial disproportionality in policing.

According to Washington State Patrol (WSP), before the change between 2014 and 2020, an average of 1,200 drivers per year fled from police. In 2022, after the change, 3,100 drivers fled from police, a spike of over 150%.

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 Bill Strengthens Prosecution of Hate Crimes

Say No To Hate Crimes - City of Renton

A bill passed in Washington is expanding the state’s definition of a hate crime and strengthens the ability to prosecute those crimes. Governor Jay Inslee signed Senate Bill 5623 into law on April 6 after it was passed with overwhelming support in the House and Senate earlier this year.

“This bill takes the common sense step of recategorizing hate crimes as crimes against a person and also provides our communities with the justice they deserve in the wake of these traumatic crimes.” ~ King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion

Senator Manka Dhingra sponsored the legislation. She states that Hate Crime offenses are reclassified as crimes against persons. The bill also replaces the phrase “physical injury” with “assault” in the definition of Hate Crime to account for more situations. Assaults that are meant to intimidate and demean, like spitting on someone, will now be grounds for prosecution as a Hate Crime.

ESB 5623 modifies the conduct that constitutes a Hate Crime offense to include when a person maliciously and intentionally assaults a victim because of the person’s perception of certain characteristics about the victim. Including the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, or disability.

SB 5623 will allow courts to impose therapeutic treatment for offenders meant to rehabilitate them. This is something that the victims of hate crimes often ask for in court. The bill also expands the definition of a hate crime. Right now, assaults have to result in a physical injury for it to be considered a hate crime.

Under the new bill, assaults that are meant to intimidate or demean but don’t result in injury can be considered a hate crime. An example of that would be spitting on someone. Supporters of the bill say hate crimes are corrosive to society and make communities feel unwelcome.

In Washington state, there were more than 500 hate crimes committed against a person in 2021, according to the Department of Justice. Their data shows the biggest motivators of hate crimes are largely race and ethnicity, followed by sexual orientation and then religion.

If prosecuted for a Hate Crime offense, the trier of fact may infer that a person intended to threaten a victim if the person committed one of the following acts:

  • Burns a cross on the property of a victim who is or whom the person perceives to be of African American heritage.
  • Defaces the property of a victim who is or whom the person perceives to be of Jewish heritage by defacing the property with a swastika.
  • Defaces religious real property with words, symbols, or items that are derogatory to persons of the faith associated with the property.
  • Places a vandalized or defaced religious item or scripture on the property of a victim who is or whom the person perceives to be of the faith with which that item or scripture is associated.
  • Damages, destroys or defaces religious garb or other faith-based attire belonging to the victim or attempts to or successfully removes religious garb or other faith-based attire from the victim’s person without the victim’s authorization.
  • Places a noose on the property of a victim who is or whom the person perceives to be of a racial or ethnic minority group.

Words alone do not constitute a Hate Crime offense unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat. Threatening words do not constitute a Hate Crime offense if it is apparent to the victim that the person does not have the ability to carry out the threat.

A Hate Crime offense is a class C felony and is punishable by a maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment, a $10,000 fine, or both. In addition, the victim of a Hate Crime offense may bring a civil cause of action against the perpetrator. Claims can include actual damages, punitive damages of up to $100,000, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

The bill will go into effect this summer, on July 23.

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.

WA Senate Passes Bill to Change Police Pursuit Law

Mayors and police across WA push to change 'police pursuit' law | KNKX  Public Radio

Last week, the WA Senate passed Senate Bill 5352. This bill allows a law enforcement officer to initiate a chase if the officer has reasonable suspicion that a person in a vehicle has committed or is committing a crime. Current law sets a higher threshold of probable cause in order to engage in a chase.

Under the measure, crimes for which a pursuit can be undertaken include a violent offense, a sex offense, domestic violence-related offenses, DUI, or Eluding. It limits vehicular pursuits to situations where the subject of the vehicular pursuit poses a serious risk of harm to others.

Additional requirements of the bill include:

  • Other law enforcement agencies or surrounding jurisdictions impacted by the pursuit are notified.
  • The pursuing officer must be able to communicate with others and the dispatch agency.
  • There must be a plan to end the pursuit as soon as it’s practical.
  • The officer must have completed an emergency vehicle operator’s course, updated emergency vehicle operator training in the past two years and be certified in at least one pursuit intervention technique, such as spike strips or other deflation devices.

The bill passed 26-23 with 16 Democrats and 10 Republicans in support. Thirteen Democrats and 10 Republicans voted against it. The bill heads next to the House for consideration.

The bill follows an element of policing reform passed in 2021 in response to the 2020 police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and other police killings. The goal of the reforms was to reduce the potential for violence and death in police responses.

The 2021 measure toughened the requirements for officer pursuit. Officers now need probable cause to arrest someone before initiating a pursuit rather than reasonable suspicion. Some law enforcement officials and city leaders say the revision emboldened suspected criminals to flee crime scenes before authorities could question them.

Those seeking greater police accountability contend communities are safer as fewer innocent bystanders have been injured or killed with the decline in high-speed chases.

Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, a former state trooper and Snohomish County sheriff, sponsored the bill.

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.

SB 5467 Proposes Drug Possession Charges As Dismissable Misdemeanors

Drug possession would be reclassified as felony under Senate bill |

This legislative session, lawmakers are split over how to respond to the state Supreme Court’s Blake decision. That ruling struck down the state’s felony drug possession law. It essentially invalidating decades of criminal convictions and related penalties, like orders to pay restitution for such violations.

SB 5467 would make possession a misdemeanor and order completion of treatment to overturn the conviction and dismiss charges. If the person willfully abandons or rejects treatment, then a 45-day jail sentence would be imposed.

SB 5467, recently heard in committee, would provide an effective solution to the rampant problem of public drug use. This is an outside-the-box policy idea that is treatment-forward but with accountability for failure to undergo treatment. Many mayors, community members and police officers have personally expressed that the current system of essentially recommending to users that they go to treatment, without any charges filed or accountability applied, is not working. This bill provides a better path.

Under this bill, a person could be charged with a gross misdemeanor if they possess illegal drugs. If the person completes the substance use disorder treatment prior to their conviction being entered, the court would be required to dismiss the charge. If a conviction is entered, the court could not sentence to jail but would order the person to undergo treatment based on their treatment needs. If the person completes the treatment, the conviction would be overturned and dismissed.

If the person willfully abandons treatment or demonstrates a consistent failure to engage in treatment, however, the court would be required to impose at least 45 days of jail.

The requirement for treatment would be subject to the availability of treatment and the availability of funding for it. If treatment or funding were not available, the court would not be allowed to sanction the person with jail time for noncompliance.

This bipartisan bill has been co-sponsored by twelve Democratic and four Republican senators.

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.

Traffic Fatalities Reach High in 2022

WTSC: Traffic deaths in Washington reach 20-year high – KIRO 7 News Seattle

Preliminary reports from the Washington Traffic Safety Commission (WTSC) showed 745 people were killed in crashes in 2022. Apparently, the number of people killed on Washington roads has now reached levels the state hasn’t seen in decades.

The rate of the year-over-year increase is something the commission said it hasn’t seen since the 1970s.

Impairment by drugs and alcohol is involved in more than half of fatal crashes. According to a December 2022 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Alcohol-involved crashes resulted in 14,219 fatalities, 497,000 nonfatal injuries, and $68.9 billion in economic costs in 2019….”

“During 2017 through 2021, 32 percent of fatal crashes in Washington involved alcohol positive drivers,” said WTSC Director Shelly Baldwin. “Alcohol impairment, whether alone or in combination with other drugs, continues to be a leading risk factor in traffic fatalities.”

Health and safety experts have long advocated for states to reduce the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) per se limit for DUI from 0.08 to 0.05 percent. The state of Utah and more than 100 countries have set BAC limits at 0.05 percent or less. The Washington Legislature is currently considering Senate Bill 5002, which would change the state’s limit to 0.05.

“The goal of this bill is not to increase the number of DUI arrests but to remind and encourage people to avoid driving after drinking and thereby save lives. This was the outcome in Utah, and we expect a similar impact in Washington State.” ~Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste.

At a BAC of 0.05 percent, a driver has reduced coordination and ability to track moving objects, difficulty steering, and delayed response to emergency driving situations. “The evidence is clear that a driver’s ability to drive safely and react to unexpected traffic conditions is affected when their BAC reaches 0.05 percent,” Baldwin said.

If passed, the legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2023.

The WTSC reminds all people in Washington that there are simple things we can do to prevent impaired driving like planning ahead for a sober ride home if you will be out drinking. Friends and loved ones can help to prevent DUIs by being a sober designated driver, calling a rideshare, or offering a place to sleep.

WTSC analysis shows impaired drivers are more likely to speed and less likely to wear seat belts. These factors increase crash risk and are more likely to result in death.

If passed, the legislation would go into effect on July 1, 2023. There’s also growing momentum for an update to the “Cooper Jones Act.” This legislation requires drivers involved in serious or deadly crashes to have their license re-examined.

Many factors lead to traffic fatalities. Increasing public safety is almost always a step in the right direction.  However, please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with DUI, Vehicular Assault any other crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Alexander F. Ransom

Attorney at Law
Criminal Defense Lawyer

119 North Commercial St.
Suite #1420
Bellingham, WA 98225

117 North 1st Street
Suite #27
Mount Vernon, WA 98273

Phone: (360) 746-2642
Fax: (360) 746-2949

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