Tag Archives: Mount Vernon Criminal Defense Attorney

Where You Live May Determine Whether You Get Stuck in Jail Before Trial

Plunge in Pretrial Jail Detention Follows Bail Reforms in New Jersey

Excellent article by discusses a recent movement by legal professionals to release more defendants from jail while they await trial. These advocates, judges and public defenders in Washington pushing argue that alternative measures such as drug and alcohol testing, electronic home monitoring, and referrals to behavioral health treatment can help lift those accused of crimes out of the legal system.

Law enforcement and prosecutors are slow to embrace the idea. They fear that people released from jail while awaiting trial will commit more crimes in the community.

According to the article, the availability and cost of these pretrial services in Washington depends heavily on where an alleged crime occurs.

Many rural counties in Eastern Washington and along the Olympic Peninsula don’t have a pretrial services program at all, filling their jails with defendants awaiting trial. Among those that do have such programs, most jurisdictions contacted by InvestigateWest require the accused to pay fees associated with their pretrial release — a barrier that disproportionately punishes poorer defendants and prevents some from being released from jail.

It’s what Ali Hohman, director of legal services for the nonprofit Washington Defender Association (WDA), calls “justice by geography.”

“Where you’re at in the state will dictate your bail amount, and it will dictate your ability to access pretrial services.” ~Ali Hohman, Director of WDA

Right now, Washington gives local control to jurisdictions to attempt their own reforms. Yakima County in 2016 began releasing low-risk offenders while providing pretrial services, and a study on the program found similar results to what New Jersey found: More people were released, there was less racial disparity in those kept in jail, and most did not go on to commit new crimes.

Other jurisdictions don’t have the resources to create those programs. Several years ago, the Legislature commissioned a task force to examine the issue. It released a report in 2019 that found gaps in the availability of pretrial services, most notably that 21 counties had no pretrial service programs at all.

Even where pretrial services existed, jails were still filled with people awaiting trial. Nationwide, two-thirds of all local jail inmates were awaiting trial, according to federal statistics, and Black and Native American people were jailed at much higher rates than white people. But in Washington’s largest counties, pretrial defendants in 2019 made up an even larger portion of the jail population. More than three-quarters of people in jails in King, Pierce and Spokane counties were there for a crime they hadn’t been convicted of, indicating pretrial reform efforts were still in early stages.

Those figures have been dramatically altered during the pandemic, with jails releasing defendants to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. King County, for instance, has mostly stopped jailing people accused of misdemeanors. Seattle and King County have since seen a small increase in crime, particularly violent crime, but those are trends in line with the rest of the country.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Making bail and hiring a competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Thanksgiving DUI Patrols

Hosting Thanksgiving? Grocery bill could have you counting your pennies |  WNCT

Thanksgiving Weekend DUI Patrols

The Washington State Patrol (WSP)  issued a press release stating that DUI emphasis patrols are now happening in Pullman as WSU students travel this Thanksgiving holiday.

According to the press release, troopers in Spokane, Whitman, Adams, Grant and Kittitas counties will be focusing on speeding to include driving too fast for conditions, distracted/impaired driving and other collision-causing violations during the emphasis. Motorists traveling to and from WSU will see an increased WSP presence on State Routes 26 & 195 as well as Interstate 90 over Snoqualmie Pass.

“We encourage travelers to pay close attention to posted speed limits and to be prepared for changing road and weather/winter driving conditions,” said the press release. “You can find current road and weather conditions on all state highways by going to the website or mobile apps provided by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT).”

Thanksgiving Day Holiday Period Estimate for 2021

According to the National Safety Council (NSC), 515 people may die on U.S. roads this Thanksgiving holiday period. If this estimate holds true, Thanksgiving 2021 will experience the most deaths since 2007. Holidays are traditionally a time of travel for families across the United States. Many choose car travel, which has the highest fatality rate of any major form of transportation based on fatalities per passenger mile. Holidays are also often cause for celebrations involving alcohol consumption, a major contributing factor to motor-vehicle crashes. Because of the unprecedented impact COVID-19 is having on social activities, the uncertainty of this year’s estimate is increased. 

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.

Jail: A Good Place to Die

Wrongful Deaths in Prison

 A new report by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics finds more than 200 people have died by suicide in Washington and Oregon jails since 2000. This puts the Northwest states above the national average for jail suicides, according to

From 2000 to 2019, the average rate of suicide in jails nationally was 43 per 100,000 inmates. By contrast, Oregon’s jail suicide rate during that same time period was 48 per 100,000. In Washington it was 57 per 100,000.

In Oregon, the study found, the jail suicide rate leapt up to 70 per 100,000 from 2015 to 2019. Washington logged its highest rate, 79 per 100,000, during the 2010 to 2014 timeframe.

Among Western states, Arizona and California reported the lowest rates of jail suicides during the same time period.

Nationally, suicide accounted for 24 percent to 35 percent of deaths in local jails between 2001 and 2019, the report said. In 2019, nearly 30 percent of U.S. jail deaths were due to suicide. The peak came in 2015 when the suicide rate in U.S. jails reached 52 per 100,000 inmates. But overall, the national rate of suicide in jails was mostly unchanged in 2019 as compared to 2000.

Here are some other findings:

  • Nationwide, white inmates were five times more likely to die by suicide in jail than Black inmates, and 3.5 times more likely than Hispanic inmates.
  • Most jail suicides happened within the first 30 days of a person being behind bars.
  • Hanging or strangulation was the most common manner of death.
  • Nearly 77 percent of the people who died by suicide in U.S. jails had not been convicted. Jails are the entry point to the criminal justice system and often hold individuals who are awaiting trial.

The quality of health care in jails can also vary greatly despite the fact jails house some of the most complex and vulnerable people in society, including those with acute mental health and substance use disorders.

In Oregon, jails must adhere to a set of statewide standards and are subject to outside inspection. By contrast, Washington jails are required to develop their own standards to ensure the health, welfare and safety of inmates.

This year, Washington enacted a law that requires jail officials to conduct a fatality review anytime a person in custody dies unexpectedly. Those reviews must be completed within 120 days and be posted to a public website maintained by the state Department of Health.

My opinion? Jail is a dangerous place. Please read my Legal Guides titled, Quash Your Bench Warrant and Making Bail and  contact my office if your friends or family are jailed. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

LGBTQ Training for Police

No Cops at Pride”: How the Criminal Justice System Harms LGBTQ People | Urban Institute

Great article in NBC News by reporter Finbarr Toesland says police departments across the U.S. are mandating LGBTQ training. Some departments are doing so voluntarily, while others are being required to do so following lawsuits.

According to Toesland, there’s growing reports of police allegedly using excessive force against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. There have also been numerous incidents in which LGBTQ individuals said members of law enforcement made disparaging remarks about their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to news reports, lawsuits and academic studies.

These incidents — along with the historically fraught relationship between law enforcement and the LGBTQ community — have led a growing number of police departments across the country to introduce LGBTQ awareness and cultural competency training for their officers. With trainings found from Washington, D.C., to Palo Alto, California, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach; rather, departments are crafting programs that take into consideration their specific communities.

Toesland explains that throughout much of modern U.S. history, police officers were bound to enforce explicitly anti-gay laws. They ranged from local measures outlawing men from “impersonating a female” to the widespread criminalization of same-sex sexual activity. In fact, it wasn’t until the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas that gay sex was decriminalized throughout the country.

THE REPORTS, SURVEYS & STUDIES

  • A 2015 report highlights the numerous surveys, court cases and academic studies that document the alleged discrimination and harassment of LGBTQ people by law enforcement.
  • The National Center for Transgender Equality’s 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found 58 percent of trans respondents who said they interacted with police in the previous year alleged they had been harassed by law enforcement. The survey also found 57 percent of respondents said they were uncomfortable contacting police for help.
  • A study published in June in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found 43 percent of Black sexual minority men experienced police discrimination in the past year. This unequal treatment had a range of negative effects on this community, including high levels of depression and anxiety.
  • Another study published by the Williams Institute in May that found lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer people are six times more likely than the general public to be stopped by police (data about transgender individuals were not available in the datasets analyzed).

THE NEED FOR TRAINING

Toesland explains that a number of law enforcement departments have proactively decided to add LGBTQ programs to their arsenal of training courses. In fact, the largest local police departments in the U.S. —  New York CityChicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Houston and Washington, D.C. — all offer some form of LGBTQ training.

The Metropolitan Police Department in Washington — the sixth largest local police department in the U.S. — has been offering LGBTQ training since 2000, though it expanded its curriculum in 2015. Sgt. Nicole Brown, who has been a supervisor for the department’s LGBT liaison unit for the past three years, said her department was the first in the nation to offer such training.

California became the first state to introduce mandatory training on sexual orientation and gender identity for incoming police officers, after former California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2504 into law in late 2018. The bill requires new recruits to undertake training in five unique areas, including understanding the differences between sexual orientation and gender identity and how these aspects of identity intersect with race, culture and religion, as well as learning appropriate terminology around sexual orientation and gender identity.

My opinion? The increase in LGBTQ-specific police training is a positive step forward. Not only can training help the LGBTQ community, but it can help police departments do their job better, especially those that are really invested in community policing. These trainings can really help get to a place where LGBTQ communities feel comfortable working with law enforcement, and actually enable police to do their jobs better and more safely.

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

Has Crime Increased?

Despite Crime Rate Decrease, Majority of Americans Think It Is Increasing

Very interesting article from freelance reporter Robert Cherry of The Hill.  It posits that although many individuals have benefitted from justifiable changes in bail and sentencing, crime has also increased.

Hill reports that in 2020, Philadelphia homicides totaled 499 — 40 percent above the previous year and just below a peak number of 500 in 1990, when the city’s population was virtually the same as today. And through July, Philadelphia is on pace to break its homicide record.

Also according to Hill, in January 2021 alone, there were 59 car-jackings, up from 18 at the same time last year, according to the Philadelphia Police Department — a more than threefold increase. There were 404 car-jackings in 2020, up from 225 in 2019 and 230 in 2018, according to the department.

A similar dynamic occurred in Chicago. As reported in 2018, Car-jackings have nearly tripled since 2015, with an increasing share committed by juveniles, thanks to a law exempting young carjackers from adult penalties.

Has crime increased?

Yes, according the U.S Department of Justice. It released a report stating that crime increased significantly in 2020. And according to an article from CNN, major American cities saw a 33% increase in homicides last year. The reasons?  The Coronavirus Pandemic, protests against racial injustice and police brutality, and the economy collapsing are all factors.

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.

As Lumber Prices Increase, Theft May Follow

Deputies arrested a man on June 1 who they say tried to steal 32 pieces of lumber, worth more than $2,300, from a Shoreline lumber yard. (Courtesy of the King County Sheriff’s Office)

Interesting article by reporter of the Seattle Times reports that the increase in lumber prices have more than tripled over the past year. Therefore, it was only a matter of time before thieves took note, said the King County Sheriff’s Office.

Earlier this month, deputies arrested a man trying to get away with more than $2,300 worth of wood from a locked lumber yard, the sheriff’s office said Thursday in a Facebook post.

“We’ve seen this with copper prices a number of years ago,” King County sheriff Sgt. Tim Meyers told KING 5. “We saw this with catalytic converter thefts as those minerals spiked, and our concern is that lumber thefts are going to be the new catalytic converter thefts as thieves try to profit in this spike in cost.”

Catalytic converters, however, don’t usually require a truck to cart away.

According to the article, on June 1, an employee of Dunn Lumber on North 185th Street in Shoreline called dispatchers around 3:30 a.m. The employee was watching a live camera feed of the lumber yard, where a suspect could be seen taking 32 pieces of lumber from the locked space and stacking them up near an entry point where a Dodge Durango sat waiting, police said. The man was arrested and booked into the King County Jail for investigation of commercial burglary.

As lumber prices hit all-time highs, theft seems to be on the rise – and not just in Washington. In early May, a Texas man was arrested for stealing an amount of lumber greater than $500 but less than $20,000. In April, Tennessee’s Department of Agriculture warned landowners to secure their properties as lumber thefts are rising in the state. On May 21, 144 sheets of plywood – valued at over $10,000 – were stolen from a job site in Florida. 

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

U.S. Prison Trends

Mass Incarceration, Then and Now | The New Yorker

The Sentencing Project devised a fact sheet which provides a compilation of major developments in the criminal justice system over the past several decades. Some highlights are as follows:

  • Mass Incarceration – The United States is the world’s leader in incarceration with 2 million people currently in the nation’s prisons and jails — a 500% increase over the last forty years.
  • Drug Policy – At the federal level, people incarcerated on a drug conviction make up nearly half the prison population. At the state level, the number of people in prison for drug offenses has increased nine-fold since 1980, although it has begun declining in recent years.
  • Racial Disparities – Black men are six times as likely to be incarcerated as white men and Latinos are 2.5 times as likely. For Black men in their thirties, about 1 in every 12 is in prison or jail on any given day.
  • Youth – Although youth detention populations are declining, youth of
    color enter the system much more frequently than white youth and are more likely to be sentenced to harsher terms of punishment. In addition, young people are transferred to the adult system each year and tried as if they were adults, and many are sent to adult prisons and jails to serve their sentences.
  • Felony Disenfranchisement – As of 2020, 5.2 million Americans were unable to vote due to state felony disenfranchisement policies.
  • Life Sentences – The number of people serving life sentences endures even while serious, violent crime has been declining for the past 20 years. This population has nearly quintupled since 1984. One in seven people in prison are serving life with parole, life without parole, or virtual life (50 years or more).

The Sentencing Project is a non-profit agency that promotes effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender 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.

Discarded DNA Admissible

I 100% volunteered to do it': How bakery worker got DNA to crack 30-year-old murder case - ABC News

In State v. Bass, the WA Court of Appeals held the admission of DNA profiles developed from a plastic cup and a soda can that the defendant discarded in a garbage can at his place of employment was proper.

BACKGROUND FACTS

In November 1989, 18-year-old Amanda Stavik, a freshman at Central Washington University, returned home to rural Whatcom County to celebrate Thanksgiving with her family. On Friday, November 24, 1989, Stavik decided to go for a run with the family dog, Kyra. Her route took her down the defendant Timothy Bass’s residence. She never returned home.

On Monday, November 27, 1989, law enforcement found Stavik’s naked body in shallow, slow-moving water of the Nooksack River. During the autopsy, Whatcom County medical examiner Dr. Gary Goldfogel found semen in Stavik’s vagina and, based on the sperm count, concluded sexual intercourse had occurred no more than 12 hours before her death. This evidence led the State to conclude that someone had kidnapped and raped Stavik while she was out on her Friday afternoon run and that she had died while fleeing her captor.

Dr. Goldfogel preserved the samples he collected and sent them to the FBI and the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab for analysis. The Crime Lab developed a male deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) profile from the sperm. The police investigation led to several suspects whom they later excluded when their DNA did not match the DNA in the sperm sample. Eventually, the case went cold.

In 2009, Detective Kevin Bowhay reopened the investigation and began asking for DNA samples from anyone who lived in the area or who may have had contact with Stavik near the time of her death. Over the course of the investigation, Det. Bowhay and his team collected more than 80 DNA samples for testing.

In 2013, Det. Bowhay asked Bass for a DNA sample. When Det. Bowhay indicated he was investigating Stavik’s death, Bass acted as if he did not know who she was, “looked up kind of, um, kind of like he was searching his memory” and said “oh, that was the girl that was found in the river.” Bass told Det. Bowhay that he did not really know Stavik and initially said he did not know where she lived. Bass refused to provide a DNA sample.

Bass’s refusal of a DNA sample raised suspicions. At this time, Bass was working as a delivery truck driver for Franz Bakery. Detective Bowhay reached out to Kim Wagner, the manager of the Franz Bakery outlet store. The detective informed Wagner he was looking for items that Bass might cast off that may contain his DNA.

In August 2017, Ms. Wagner saw Bass drink water from a plastic cup and throw the cup away in a wastebasket in the bakery’s employee break room. She collected that cup and stored it in a plastic bag in her desk. Two days later, she saw Bass drink from a soda can and, again, after he discarded it in the same trash can, she retrieved it and stored it with the cup. Det. Bowhay did not direct Wager to take any items and did not tell her how to handle or package these items.

Wagner contacted Det. Bowhay via text to let him know she had two items Bass had discarded in the garbage. Det. Bowhay met Wagner in the Franz Bakery parking lot, picked up the items, and sent them to the Washington State Crime Lab for analysis. The Crime Lab confirmed that the DNA collected from Bass’s soda can and cup matched the male DNA collected from the semen in Stavik’s body.

The State arrested Bass and charged him with first degree felony murder, rape and kidnapping. In pretrial motions, the trial court denied Bass’s motion to suppress the DNA evidence obtained from items Wagner collected at the Franz Bakery. In 2019, a jury convicted Timothy Bass of all charges.

On appeal, Bass challenged, among other things, the admissibility of DNA evidence linking him to the crime. His argument on appeal was that Wagner acted as a state agent when she collected his discarded items without a warrant.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The WA Court of Appeals began by saying the Exclusionary Rule – a law that prohibits the use of illegally obtained evidence in a criminal trial – does not apply to the acts of private individuals. However, evidence discovered by a private citizen while acting as a government agent is subject to the rule.

“To prove a private citizen was acting as a government agent, the defendant must show that the State in some way ‘instigated, encouraged, counseled, directed, or controlled’ the conduct of the private person.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

The Court further reasoned that the mere knowledge by the government that a private citizen might conduct an illegal private search without the government taking any deterrent action [is] insufficient to turn the private search into a governmental one. For an agency relationship to exist, there must be a manifestation of consent by the principal [the police] that the agent [the informant] acts for the police and under their control and consent by the informant that he or she will conduct themselves subject to police control.

Consequently, the Court of Appeals rejected Bass’s argument and upheld the trial court’s findings that Ms. Wagner was not an agent at the time she pulled Bass’s cup and soda can from the trash and gave it to police:

“Det. Bowhay and Wagner both testified that Det. Bowhay did not ask or encourage Wagner to look for items to seize and did not tell her what type of items to take. Wagner testified Det. Bowhay did not instruct her to find an item containing Bass’s saliva; she made that assumption based on her husband’s experience in doing an ancestry DNA test and on watching television crime shows. Wagner confirmed that Det. Bowhay did not encourage her to find Bass’s DNA and gave her no guidance in how to do so.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

The co-worker who pulled the cup and soda can from the trash, was not acting as a government agent when she retrieved the items. The co-worker, not the detective, conceived of the idea of watching the defendant to see whether he discarded any items at work and the detective did not tell her how to handle any items collected.

With that, the Court concluded that Detective Bowhay did not direct, entice, or control Wagner and Wagner was not acting as a state agent when she retrieved Bass’s cup and soda can from the workplace trash can. “These findings in turn support the legal conclusion that Wagner’s seizure of Bass’s discarded items and the DNA evidence was not the fruit of an unlawful search.” The Court upheld Bass’s convictions.

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

Supreme Court Sides with Police Officer who Improperly Searched License Plate Database

CA police officers keep jobs despite criminal convictions | The Sacramento Bee

In Van Buren v. United States, the U.S. Supreme Court held that defendant Nathan Van Buren, a Georgia police officer Buren, did not violate the nation’s top computer crime law when he searched a license plate database for non-official purposes.

BACKGROUND FACTS

Former Georgia police sergeant Nathan Van Buren used his patrol-car computer to access a law enforcement database to retrieve information about a particular license plate number in exchange for money. Van Buren agreed. The requestor – a third party who offered to pay him to search the database – was an undercover FBI informant. Van Buren used his own valid credentials to perform the search. However, his conduct clearly violated a department policy against obtaining database information for non-law-enforcement purposes.

Again, unbeknownst to Van Buren, his actions were part of a FBI sting operation. Van Buren was charged with a felony violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act of 1986 (CFAA), which subjects to criminal liability anyone who “intentionally accesses a computer without authorization or exceeds authorized access.” 18 U. S. C. §1030(a)(2). A jury convicted Van Buren, and the lower federal District Court sentenced him to 18 months in prison.

Van Buren appealed his conviction to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that the “exceeds authorized access” clause applies only to those who obtain information to which their computer access does not extend, not to those who misuse access that they otherwise have. Consistent with Eleventh Circuit precedent, the panel held that Van Buren had violated the CFAA.

Van Buren appealed again, this time to the U.S. Supreme Court.

COURT’S RATIONALE & CONCLUSIONS

In a 6-3 majority opinion penned by Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the Court held that Van Buren’s conduct did not violate the CFAA when he searched a license plate database for non-official purposes.

Justice Barrett wrote that Van Buren’s conduct “plainly flouted” his department’s policy, which authorized him to obtain database information only for law enforcement purposes.
“The parties agree that Van Buren accessed a computer with authorization and obtained information in the computer,” wrote Justice Barrett.  “They dispute whether Van Buren was entitled so to obtain that information.”
Regarding that specific issue, Justice Barrett reasoned the provision of the law at issue does not cover those who have improper motives for obtaining information that is otherwise available to them.  And regarding the issue of whether Van Buren violated the CFAA  – the truly important legal issue of the case –  Justice Barrett wrote “he did not.”
“The relevant question, however, is not whether Van Buren exceeded his authorized access but whether he exceeded his authorized access as the CFAA defines that phrase. For reasons given elsewhere, he did not.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Barrett, Majority Opinion

“To top it all off,” she wrote, the government’s expansive interpretation of the law “would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity.” Simply checking personal email or reading the news on a work computer would be considered a crime, Barrett added.

“The Government’s interpretation of the “exceeds authorized access” clause would attach criminal penalties to a breathtaking amount of commonplace computer activity. For instance, employers commonly state that computers and electronic devices can be used only for business purposes. On the Government’s reading, an employee who sends a personal e-mail or reads the news using a work computer has violated the CFAA.” ~U.S. Supreme Court Justice Barrett, Majority Opinion

Finally, Justice Barrett reasoned that the Government’s prosecution would also inject arbitrariness into the assessment of criminal liability, because whether conduct like Van Buren’s violated the CFAA would depend on how an employer phrased the policy violated.

With that, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed Van Buren’s criminal conviction.

THE DISSENT

In his dissent, Justice Thomas compared Van Buren’s actions to a valet charged with parking a car, writing that the law should have covered the police officers’ actions. The valet, Thomas wrote, may “take possession of a person’s car to park it, but he cannot take it for a joyride,” Thomas wrote. He noted that Van Buren had permission to retrieve license plate information, but only for “law enforcement purposes.”
“When the police officer accessed the database in exchange for a bribe from an acquaintance, he exceeded authorized access under the law . . . Without valid law enforcement purposes, he was forbidden to use the computer to obtain that information.” ~ U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thomas, Dissenting Opinion.
In another example, Thomas said that an employee may be entitled to pull the alarm in the event of a fire, “but he is not entitled to pull it for some other purpose, such as to delay a meeting for which he is unprepared.”
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 Law Offers Prison Alternatives for Mentally Ill

Mentally Ill Inundate State Prisons | Connecticut Public Radio

Reporter Austin Jenkins of the Northwest News Network wrote an article reporting that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has signed a measure that will soon offer an alternative to prison for people with a serious mental illness who commit a crime.

Under the new law signed Monday by Inslee, judges will have the option to sentence a person to community supervision and treatment in lieu of prison. Washington already offers sentencing alternatives for certain drug offenders and certain sex offenders.

The program — which takes effect July 25 —will be open to individuals who are convicted of a felony crime that is not a serious violent offense or a sex offense. The person would have to be willing to participate in the sentencing alternative, the court would have to determine the individual would benefit from community-based supervision and treatment, and the opinion of the person’s victim would also be considered.

If the person were to violate the conditions of the sentencing alternative, they could be sent to prison to serve their sentence.

My opinion? Excellent idea. Data suggests that people in the criminal justice system are more likely to suffer from mental health problems than the general population. Our sentencing should be sensitive to these problems.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime and mental health is an issue. Substantive defenses such as Diminished Capacity are helpful. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.