Tag Archives: Bellingham Criminal Defense Attorney

WA Ranks Low In States With Road Rage

A person driving.

A recent study from H&P Law ranks Washington among states with the least amount of road rage. The firm used data from The Trace and the NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System to rank states by most common road rage incidents. Washingtonians can consider themselves lucky – the Evergreen State falls in the bottom ten for reported or documented road rage incidents.

THE REPORT

The report ranks all 50 states utilizing analysis of six key factors. Data points used include the number of firearm-related incidents, the percentage of crashes involving aggressive or careless driving, the number of accidents with fatalities, the total number of deaths from crashes involving aggressive or careless driving, the percentage of incidents involving aggressive or careless driving that resulted in a fatality, and speeding violations, at varying weights.

Washington ranks 44 of 50, making it one of the states with the fewest road rage incidents. Rhode Island was ranked the best. The study ranked the least road rage prone states in the bottom ten as: Iowa South Dakota, Wyoming, Washington, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Virginia, California, Rhode Island.

WHAT MADE WASHINGTON’S SCORE SO LOW?

The Evergreen State has a low rate of firearm-related road rage incidents, at 1.5 per 100,000 residents. Less than 28% of the state’s car crashes involve aggressive or careless driving, according to the study. Washington experiences 2.5 fatal crashes due to aggressive driving per 100,000 residents, and a low number of speeding violations compared to other states.

WHICH STATES HAVE MOST ROAD RAGE?

According to the report, the states with the most road rage are:

  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Montana
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • North Carolina
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Wisconsin
  • Tennessee

At some point in every driver’s life, they’ll inevitably experience road rage. Whether it’s screaming vulgarities, the middle finger, tailgating or aggression, being on the receiving end of road rage is jarring, and potentially dangerous.

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

“Three Strikes, You’re Out” Report Shows Failures & Inequities

Three Strikes and you’re out of the game in California

Photo courtesy of Isabella Roesler and Anna Silverman.

A report prepared by the Civil Rights Clinic at Seattle University School of Law and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality found scathing inequalities continue to exist in the criminal justice system. In Justice is Not a Game, they rely on data to demonstrate that Washington’s Three-Strikes Law fails to meet its penological goals. Consequently, this punishment is arbitrary and cruel.

WHY “THREE STRIKES, YOU’RE OUT” IS UNJUST

“Three Strikes, You’re Out” has at least five strikes against it: (1) it is overly retributive, punishing much more harshly than is justified, which makes it an immoral punishment; (2) it fails as a deterrent, making it ineffective as a policy choice; (3) it excessively over-incapacitates, imprisoning people far beyond when they would continue committing serious offenses; (4) it fails to allow for rehabilitation and redemption; and (5) it is applied in a racially disparate manner, making this punishment arbitrary and hence cruel.

Ample research demonstrating the first three points already exists. ThE report focuses on the latter two—the denial of redemption and the striking racial injustice. It also provides historical context of the POAA and explains in detail why repeal of the Persistent Offender Accountability Act (POAA) is a justifiable policy choice that would leave the rest of Washington’s Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) intact.

THE NUMBERS

According to the study, Black people are 18 times more likely than White people charged with three strikes crimes to be sentenced as persistent offenders. Also, Indigenous persons are sentenced to life without parole three times more often than White persons. In a state where only 4.6% of the population is Black, about 40% of those sentenced to life without parole are Black persons. There is no way this severe racial disproportionality can be justified.

One of the most prevalent areas imposing three-strike sentences is second-degree assault, the basis for 142 of the 270 three-strike sentences in Washington. Of those convicted of this crime, 33% are Black, and 5% are Indigenous. Compared to the state population, Black people are over-represented by a factor of 7, while Indigenous persons are over-represented by a factor of 2.5. Likewise, life without parole sentences for anticipatory offenses imposed on Black and Indigenous persons are also severely discriminatory, with 32% of them imposed on Black persons and 11% imposed on Indigenous persons.

Evidence indicates that none of the penological goals of incarceration are met when a court imposes a life without parole sentence. As those serving these sentences age, the sentences fail to meet the interests of justice as they can no longer be justified as retributive or to increase public safety. Instead, the sentences operate to incarcerate those who pose no danger to the community.

HOW CAN THIS STUDY BE USED?

If you have a three-strike case, you can use this study to argue that three-strike sentences are arbitrary and unconstitutional. The racial disparity inherent in the sentences makes them cruel and, as such, violates Washington’s Article I, Section 14’s ban on cruel or unusual punishment. Our Supreme Court has recognized that this type of detail is more than adequate to make a constitutional challenge. It is time for Courts to acknowledge the extreme arbitrariness of this law and strike it down.

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Ruling May Allow More Aggressive Homeless Encampment Removals

Activists demonstrate at the Supreme Court as the justices consider a challenge to rulings that found punishing people for sleeping outside when shelter space is lacking amounts to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment, on Capitol Hill April 22 in Washington. (AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

(AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson, the U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority upheld Oregon’s ban on camping. It found laws that criminalize sleeping in public spaces do not violate the Eighth Amendment’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.

BACKGROUND FACTS

The city of Grants Pass in southern Oregon has a population of approximately 38,000. Of that population, somewhere between 50 and 600 persons are unhoused. Whatever the exact number of unhoused persons, however, it exceeds the number of available shelter beds, requiring that at least some of them sleep on the streets or in parks. However, several provisions of the Grants Pass Municipal Code prohibit them from doing so, including an “anti-sleeping” ordinance, two “anti-camping” ordinances, a “park exclusion” ordinance, and a “park exclusion appeals” ordinance.

A district court certified a class of plaintiffs of involuntarily unhoused persons living in Grants Pass. The district court concluded that, based on the unavailability of shelter beds, the City’s enforcement of its anti-camping and anti-sleeping ordinances violated the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. A panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, and the Ninth Circuit denied rehearing en banc. The U.S. Supreme Court decided to hear the case.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

Writing for the majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said that the nation’s policy on homelessness shouldn’t be dictated by federal judges, rather such decisions should be left to state and local leaders.

“Homelessness is complex,” Gorsuch wrote. “Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it.”

“At bottom, the question this case presents is whether the Eighth Amendment grants federal judges primary responsibility for assessing those causes and devising those responses. It does not,” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch

In a dissenting opinion, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that, for some people, sleeping outside is a “biological necessity” and it’s possible to balance issues facing local governments with constitutional principles and the humanity of homeless people.

“Instead, the majority focuses almost exclusively on the needs of local governments and leaves the most vulnerable in our society with an impossible choice: Either stay awake or be arrested.” ~Justice Sonia Sotomayor

Criminalizing homelessness can “cause a destabilizing cascade of harm,” Sotomayor added. When a person is arrested or separated from their belongings, the items that are frequently destroyed include important documents needed for accessing jobs and housing or items required for work such as uniforms and bicycles, Sotomayor wrote.

My opinion? The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision will likely result in municipalities taking more aggressive action to remove encampments. This may include searching homeless people’s property and/or discarding it. Since the ruling allows municipalities to issue more citations and arrests without violating the Eighth Amendment, the decision could lead to more legal claims over other constitutional protections, which could include the disposal of people’s property during encampment removals. Other legal claims over cities’ treatment of homeless people have focused on rights protecting against unreasonable search and seizure and guaranteeing due process, in the Fourth and 14th Amendments.

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 State Crime Report: Violent Crimes Down, Hate Crimes & Vehicle Thefts Up

2023 Washington Annual Crime Report

Photo courtesy of WASPC

The annual Crime in Washington report detailing specific crime rates throughout the state in 2023 was released.  It found that as overall violent crimes went down, hate crimes and vehicle thefts went up.

The report is based on data that was sent to the Washington State Uniform Crime Reporting Program of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) by 225 agencies across the state.

The report said that the rate of murders, violent and property crimes decreased slightly across the state. There were 376 murders in 2023 which was a 5.8% decrease from 2022. But last year’s number is an 87% increase from 2019. Violent crimes decreased about 5.5% and property crime also decreased by about 11.9%.

HATE CRIMES

The report detailed statistics that showed that hate crimes increased by 6%. The highest frequency of hate crimes based on demographics were race, religion, disability, gender/gender identity, and sexual orientation.

  • Race: Anti-Black/African American
  • Religion: Anti-Jewish
  • Disability: Anti-Mental Disability
  • Gender/Gender Identity: Anti-Transgender
  • Sexual Orientation: Anti-LGBTQ

“These are severe assaults. And we had 79 of those last year related to hate crime in the state of Washington. And that should be a number that should be very concerning to us and should point to the fact that we have to do even more to combat hate crime.” ~Steve Strachan, Executive director of WASPC.

VEHICLE THEFTS

Since 2019, the state has seen a 112% increase in vehicle thefts. Based on the report vehicle thefts increased by 5.4% over the last year. More than 20% of people who were arrested for vehicle theft were juveniles, which is a 24% increase from 2022.

“This is one that is not going down. We’ve seen substantial increases since 2019, and it went up again this year. A lot of issues related this. We’ve talked about the last few years— changes in use of force standards, changes in police staffing, changes in pursuit restrictions . . . Most of the vehicles that are stolen in our state are older vehicles. They’re vehicles belonging to people who can least afford being a victim of crime in terms of vehicle theft. And it can turn their life upside down. So, this is a really concerning number for all of us.” ~Steve Strachan, Executive director of WASPC.

LAW ENFORCEMENT STAFFING

The report also looked at the staffing numbers of officers across the state. The number of commissioned officers went up by 94 which brought the total to 10,760. The report said that Washington ranked 51st out of the 50 states and the District of Columbia for the number of officers per thousand residents.

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.

Bellingham Police Department Rejoins the Whatcom County Drug Task Force

Whatcom gang, drug task force investigation leads to two arrests | News | lyndentribune.com

Photo courtesy of WCSO

Bellingham Police staff shall dedicate personnel to resume participation in the Whatcom County Drug Task Force (WCDTF).

For the past four years, the Bellingham Police Department (BPD) has not committed manpower to the WCDTF. That’s because 2021 brought cutbacks in police staff driven by a combination of retirements, COVID, and resignations.  Also, in 2020, Bellingham sidelined its special units.  As a result, it ceased bicycle patrols, the drug task force, gang intervention, outreach, behavioral health, and more. That’s all changed, however, as Bellingham has hired 25 officers in the past two years.

Agency partnerships like the WCDTF employ various strategies. That target, disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking. They also reduce the illegal drug supply, seize assets, and bring alleged criminals to justice.

On June 3, the Bellingham City Council voted to recognize opioid drugs like fentanyl as a massive threat to our health, safety and general welfare. They believe that participating in a countywide task force is important because a large number of drug cases are focused on Bellingham.

WCDTF members include police departments in Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden and Sumas; the U.S. Border Patrol; U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; and the Washington State Patrol. It’s run by an executive board that includes the Whatcom County sheriff and the chiefs of the Ferndale and Bellingham police departments and the Whatcom County prosecuting attorney.

Since that time, the department has been staffing only their patrol and investigations divisions, the two units that are key to answering 911 calls and solving serious crime.

Bellingham had 128 police officer positions in 2023-24 budget — up from 122 in the previous two-year cycle.

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.

Defendants Can’t Be Forced to Appear in Court from Jail Cells

US reporter Evan Gershkovich appears in Russian court to appeal detention | The Times of Israel

Photo courtesy of NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA / AFP)

In State v. Luthi, the WA Supreme Court held that defendants who appear in an in-courtroom holding cells at jails are essentially shackled, and as such, they may not be placed in holding cells without a specific inquiry into why that’s necessary.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In order to fully appreciate the particular restraint at issue in this case, we must first describe the in-court holding cell at the Cowlitz County Jail courtroom used for Ms. Luthi’s hearing.

The Cowlitz County Superior Court often employs a courtroom in the Cowlitz County Jail for short criminal proceedings without witnesses. When the defendant appears for such a hearing, they enter the in-court holding cell directly from a “secured area of the jail.” The holding cell appears to be located at the back or side of the Cowlitz County Jail courtroom, away from the table where counsel sits.

The interior of the holding cell is roughly five feet wide, five feet deep, and eight feet long, with a “mesh window” on the right to allow defendants to speak with their attorneys, and a glass window on the left. Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Viewed from the courtroom, the in-court holding cell looks like this:

Defendants can't be forced to appear in court from jail cells, WA Supreme Court rules | The Seattle Times

In 2021, Luthi pleaded guilty to Drug Offense. She was given a mental health sentencing alternative (MHSA) of 36 months’ parole. Following two parole violation notices in 2022, the State petitioned to revoke the MHSA. Luthi was taken into custody at the Cowlitz County Jail on December 20, 2022. She was held without bail until her MHSA revocation hearing in February 2023.

Luthi’s defense counsel was already very familiar with the in-court holding cell, which counsel refers to as “a cage on the side of the  courtroom.” According to defense counsel, the incourt holding cell was a dehumanizing restraint comparable to shackling. As a form of restraint, shackling cannot be imposed unless a judge finds it necessary. Through counsel, Luthi filed a motion before her MHSA revocation hearing to appear in court without restraints. Counsel argued there was no reason to place Ms. Luthi inside of a cage and for her to be physically separated from the court proceedings. She was not a flight risk, and she was not going to harm herself or others.

The judge denied Luthi’s hearing to be released from the holding cell during court hearings. After her hearing, Luthi wrote an e-mail to defense counsel. She explained how difficult it was to participate from the in-court holding cell. Among other things,  it was “almost impossible to speak” to her attorney. Luthi also described feeling as though she was “on display” in the holding cell and “not a part of her own court hearing.”

COURT’S RATIONALE & CONCLUSIONS

Justice Yu wrote the court’s opinion. She held the superior court failed to conduct a  individualized inquiry before requiring Luthi to appear in an in-court holding cell. Consequently, Justice Yu reasoned that in-court holding cell violated Luthi’s due process right to appear at all courtroom proceedings without unjustified restraints:

“Requiring defendants to attend court hearings while in a holding cell undermines the presumption of innocence, interferes with a defendant’s ability to communicate with counsel, and violates the dignity of the defendant and the judicial proceedings.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu

Moreover, Justice Yu reasoned the physical separation between the defendant and everyone else in the courtroom created undue biases and assumptions from others:

“Applying reason, principle, and common human experience, we must conclude that this constant reminder of the accused’s condition could invite any decision-maker to draw negative, prejudicial inferences, even at a subconscious level.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu

Finally, Justice Yu reasoned the in-court holding cell is contrary to the courtroom’s formal dignity, which includes the respectful treatment of defendants:

“In the United States, defendants traditionally sit next to their counsel at counsel table, and courtrooms have historically been built without docks or incourt holding cells . . . Compelling a defendant to appear from an in-court holding cell without justification creates the perception that the rest of the courtroom is really a theater . . . making the defendant an exhibit or spectacle in the trial.” ~WA Supreme Court Justice Mary Yu

With that, Justice Yu and the majority court reversed and remanded Ms. Luthi’s MHSA revocation to the superior court for a new hearing.

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.

Why Americans Think Crime Is Increasing

What the public thinks – and data shows – about violent crime in U.S. | Pew Research Center

In Vox, Journalist Abdallah Fayyad offers theories on why politicians from both parties have sounded the alarm about rising crime.

THE TRUTH

In truth, the pandemic-era spike in crime actually seems to have subsided. The first three months of 2024 showed a historic decline in crime rates compared with the same period last year, according to the latest data from the FBI. Murder, for example, is down 26 percent, and robberies dropped 18 percent. Crime rates now look more like they did pre-Covid, steadily declining as they had been since the 1990s.

And yet, the majority of Americans still believe that crime is only getting worse. A 2023 Gallup poll showed that 77 percent of Americans believed that crime was increasing across the country. That might help explain why lawmakers have been overreacting to the short-lived rise. Many take a tough-on-crime approach to public safety. Their measures include imposing harsher penalties and increasing police surveillance.

So what could be driving the big, consistent gap between public perception and reality? Here are three theories:

1. FEARMONGERING CAUSED BY POLITICIANS

For decades, American politicians — and especially Republicans — have run political campaigns that put crime front and center, even when crime rates are on the decline. This style of campaigning dates back to the 1960s, when Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater launched a “law-and-order” presidential campaign against Lyndon Johnson and used crime as a way to implicitly talk about race.

Republican presidents like Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush, and Donald Trump all focused on urban crime as a way to stir up white suburban voters in particular. National media — especially opinion and commentary publications — also took the theory and ran with it. According to the Marshall Project, the country’s leading newspapers and magazines used the term “superpredator” nearly 300 times between 1995 and 2000, when crime had started to decline. The majority of times, the term was used uncritically.

“It’s a vicious cycle . . . There’s a latent concern about crime — it always sits there as a second-tier issue for voters. And if you play upon that as a politician, and you campaign and you really spark fear around the issue, you watch it grow as a top voting issue. That’s absolutely what happens.” ~Insha Rahman, vice president of advocacy and partnerships at the Vera Institute of Justice.

2. MEDIA COVERAGE OF CRIME DISTORTS REALITY

Media outlets dedicate entire sections to coverage of crime, making it a significant part of Americans’ news digest. Its constant coverage makes people feel like it’s a problem that never subsides. Today, there’s also the added layer of social media.

3. WHEN CRIME IS SENSATIONALIZED, AMERICANS CAN’T LOOK AWAY.

According to journalist Abdallah Fayyad, when crimes that might be relatively rare are given outsized weight in the media, people start to believe that they’re more common than they actually are. It also leads to a vicious feedback loop. Tough-on-crime politicians repeatedly talk about a case, media outlets cover it, and people become extremely interested in it. This encourages politicians to continue exploiting the case and more media coverage.

Take the case of Laken Riley, a 22-year-old nursing student who was killed earlier this year. The story played into Republicans’ narrative about immigration — Trump started his 2016 campaign talking about how people crossing the southern borders were criminals and rapists — because the alleged killer had entered the United States illegally. The case became so prominently featured in Republican campaigns that President Joe Biden mentioned it in his State of the Union address, after Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene confronted him about it.

Studies show, however, that immigrants aren’t more likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. In fact, some studies show that immigrants might be less likely to commit crimes than people born in the US. But when one horrific incident like Laken Riley’s is sensationalized, it can quickly affect public opinion: One poll, for example, showed that the majority of Americans believe that migration is leading to more crime, despite all evidence that points to the contrary.

So while law-and-order campaigns feed off sensationalizing crime, they are often actually about something else: stirring up fear of a changing society.

CRIME WILL KEEP GETTING DISCUSSED AS A 2024 CAMPAIGN ISSUE

According to journalist Abdallah Fayyad, Trump has spent a lot of time talking about crime. despite falling crime rates, and he’s likely to bring it up during his debates with Biden. Regardless of where crime rates actually stand, the fact that so many people believe that crime is not only a serious problem but one that’s actively getting worse has resulted in Republicans and Democrats trying to prove their tough-on-crime bona fides. Even officials in the Biden administration, for example, have told progressives that they went “too far” on criminal justice reforms and that they should look for a more “sensible approach.”

But whatever candidates will say about combating crime, one thing is clear: Crime isn’t actually getting worse – even if the majority of Americans think it is.

Excellent reporting by journalist Abdallah Fayyad. 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.

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Domestic Violence Gun Ban

Supreme Court upholds federal gun ban for those under domestic violence restraining orders | Fox News

In United States v. Rahimi, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its most significant gun control ruling in two years. It upheld a federal law that bars people who are the subject of domestic violence restraining orders from owning weapons.

With conservatives and liberals joining the 8-1 majority, the decision was a major win for gun safety groups and victims of domestic violence. It limited a controversial standard the high court’s conservatives had set down in 2022 that required gun prohibitions to have a connection to history to survive constitutional scrutiny.

The case centered on a 1994 law that bars people who are the subject of domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns. A Texas man, Zackey Rahimi, was convicted for violating that law following a series of shootings.

SUPREME COURT’S PRECEDENT ON GUN CONTROL 

Two years ago, in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen, the Supreme Court said that to survive a challenge, gun laws must have some connection to the nation’s history and tradition.

In BruenJustice Thomas wrote on behalf of the Supreme Court’s majority as the court charted a new approach to the Second Amendment. The sweeping “history and tradition test” Thomas put forth in that opinion declared that modern gun-control laws are invalid unless similar restrictions existed in early American history.

Unfortunately, Justice Thomas’s opinion in Bruen sent lower federal courts dumbfounded on whether modern gun laws had some connection to the 18th Century.

RAHIMI ADDRESSES THE CONFUSING PRECEDENT CREATED BY BRUEN.

Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote Rahimi’s majority opinion, sought to minimize the Court’s disagreements with Justice Thomas, who was the lone dissenter (and wrote Bruen, remember). However, not all the justices were so restrained, with two calling Thomas’ approach “useless.”

Justice Amy Coney Barrett, a conservative who has been raising concerns about the Supreme Court’s approach on history in recent cases, penned a brief concurrence criticizing how some lower courts were looking for near-identical historical gun laws when examining modern regulations.

“Imposing a test that demands overly specific analogues has serious problems. It forces 21st-century regulations to follow late-18th-century policy choices, giving us ‘a law trapped in amber.’” ~Justice Barrett

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

U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Influential Criminal Cases

In Death Penalty Cases, a Texas Court Tests the Supreme Court's Patience - The New York Times

The Associated Press reports the Supreme Court is headed into its final few weeks with nearly half of the cases heard this year still undecided. Some of the criminal cases are quite influential, including ones that could reshape the law on Obstructing, Firearms Offenses and Domestic Violence cases.

Here’s a look at some of the major undecided cases:

Jan. 6, 2021 Riots

A former Pennsylvania police officer is challenging the validity of obstruction charges brought against hundreds of people who took part in the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Former President Donald Trump faces the same charge of obstructing an official proceeding.

The legal issue is whether a law meant to discourage tampering with documents sought in investigations can be used against the Capitol rioters.

The federal charge of Obstruction of an Official Proceeding carries up to 20 years behind bars. It is among the most widely used felony charges in the Jan. 6 cases. It has been brought against extremists accused of plotting to stop the transfer of presidential power from Republican Donald Trump to Democrat Joe Biden as well as in dozens of less serious cases.

Guns & Domestic Violence

The justices are weighing whether to uphold a federal law that seeks to protect Domestic Violence victims by keeping guns away from the people alleged to have abused them.

The case, United States v. Rahimi, made its way up to the Supreme Court after the Biden administration asked the justices to review a decision earlier this year by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that struck down a federal law that bars people under domestic violence orders from having firearms.

An appeals court struck down a law that prohibits people under domestic violence restraining orders from possessing firearms. That court found that the law violated the 2nd Amendment right to “keep and bear arms” following the Supreme Court’s 2022 ruling that expanded gun rights and changed how courts are supposed to evaluate gun restrictions.

Homelessness

The most significant Supreme Court case in decades on homelessness centers on whether people can be banned from sleeping outdoors when shelter space is lacking.

A San Francisco-based appeals court decision said that amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Leaders from California and across the West say that the ruling makes it harder for them to regulate homeless encampments encroaching on sidewalks and other public places. Advocates say it would criminalize homelessness just as rising costs have pushed the number of people without a permanent place to live to record levels.

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.

U.S. Supreme Court Declares Unlawful a Federal Ban on “Bump Stock” Devices

FILE - Shooting instructor Frankie McRae demonstrates the grip on an AR-15 rifle fitted with a "bump stock" at his 37 PSR Gun Club in Bunnlevel, N.C., on Oct. 4, 2017. Gun accessories known as bump stocks hit the market more than a decade ago. The U.S. government initially concluded that the devices that make semi-automatic weapons fire faster didn't violate a federal ban on machine guns. That changed after a gunman with bump stock-equipped rifles killed 60 people and wounded hundreds in Las Vegas in 2017. (AP Photo/Allen G. Breed, File)

AP Photo/Allen G. Breed

In Garland v. Cargill, the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Trump-era regulation that effectively banned bump stocks. These aftermarket accessories make semiautomatic rifles fire more like machine guns. The devices were used in the deadliest mass shooting in American history.

A majority of the justices reasoned that the definition of machine gun in federal law does not apply to bump stocks. As a result, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives exceeded its authority to regulate them, the court ruled.

“A bump stock does not convert a semiautomatic rifle into a machinegun any more than a shooter with a lightning-fast trigger finger does.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Semiautomatic weapons, which fire one bullet per trigger pull, are legal and don’t need to be registered with the federal government. When a bump stock is employed, it uses a semiautomatic’s natural recoil to quickly re-engage the trigger as long as the shooter maintains pressure. That enables an increased rate of fire — one that can nearly match that of a machine gun.

The court’s liberal justices signed onto a dissent penned by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, which panned the majority’s reasoning:

“This is not a hard case. All of the textual evidence points to the same interpretation. A bump-stock-equipped semiautomatic rifle is a machinegun because (1) with a single pull of the trigger, a shooter can (2) fire continuous shots without any human input beyond maintaining forward pressure.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

ARE BUMP STOCKS NOW LEGAL IN WASHINGTON STATE?

No. Garland v. Cargill narrowly applies only to the ATF’s rulemaking authority and interpretation of federal statutes. Therefore, Washington’s ban on bump stocks shall remain in effect. Also, it is still a Class A felony in WA State to possess a bump-stocked firearm in the commission of a felony. Washington State joins 16 other states and the District of Columbia in preserving their bump stock bans.

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.