Fleeing a Crime Scene

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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.