Tag Archives: Mount Vernon Criminal Defense

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.

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.

Road Rage Shootings Have Surged

Jennifer Mascia on X: "Over the last decade the number of people shot in road rage incidents surged 450% @ByChipBrownlee and I report for @teamtrace: https://t.co/w5CapDp4ZN https://t.co/faBCQjqhU1" / X

Journalists Jennifer Mascia and Chip Brownlee report in The Trace that Road Rage shooting incidents have skyrocketed over the past decade. A new analysis finds an increase of incidents from 83 nationally in 2014 to 456 in 2023 — a nearly 450% jump.

The findings, from an analysis of Gun Violence Archive (GVA) data by gun violence newsroom The Trace, mirror a broader increase in gun-related violence. All told, angry drivers shot 3,095 people over that decade, or nearly one every day. One in four of those people — 777 — were killed.

Caveat: The GVA is a private non-profit that produces a range of gun violence estimates based on police reports, government data, news stories and more.

Law enforcement agencies do not release statistics on road rage shootings as a specific category of crime. But GVA tracks incidents in which someone in a car fires at a driver or passenger in another vehicle or brandishes a gun in a threatening manner. The close of 2023 marked the collection of 10 full years of data, and although not all gun-related road rage incidents make the news or are reported to police, GVA provides the most comprehensive picture of gun violence on the nation’s roads and highways.

Since 2014, gun-involved road rage incidents have more than doubled, and the number of victims killed or injured has increased more than fivefold, the data shows. When we looked specifically at shootings — incidents in which either a victim or suspect was shot — the increase is even more consistent. The number of road rage shootings tracked by GVA increased by an average of 23 percent each year over the past decade.

Road rage shootings are on the rise across the United States as drivers increasingly turn to firearms to vent their frustrations — with often tragic consequences.

Between 2014 and 2023, the number of people shot in road rage incidents surged more than 400 percent, from 92 to 481, according to a Trace analysis of data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive. All told, angry drivers shot 3,095 people over that decade, or nearly one every day. One in four of those people — 777 — were killed.

Law enforcement agencies do not release statistics on road rage shootings as a specific category of crime. But GVA tracks incidents in which someone in a car fires at a driver or passenger in another vehicle or brandishes a gun in a threatening manner. The close of 2023 marked the collection of 10 full years of data, and although not all gun-related road rage incidents make the news or are reported to police, GVA provides the most comprehensive picture of gun violence on the nation’s roads and highways.

Since 2014, gun-involved road rage incidents have more than doubled, and the number of victims killed or injured has increased more than fivefold, the data shows. When we looked specifically at shootings — incidents in which either a victim or suspect was shot — the increase is even more consistent. The number of road rage shootings tracked by GVA increased by an average of 23 percent each year over the past decade.

Someone was shot in a road rage incident on average every 18 hours in 2023, up from once every four days in 2014.

These shootings are happening in almost every corner of the country. Many are prompted by collisions or motorists cutting each other off in traffic, while the motivations for others aren’t always clear.

My opinion? Clearly, the number of guns in circulation continues growing as many states relax their gun control laws.  It’s possible that road rage incidents that otherwise would’ve been an exchange of middle fingers turn into shootouts. However, it’s also possible that self-defense could justify these actions.

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.

WA Supreme Court Reverses Kitsap County DUI Case Decision Challenging Breathalyzers

Illustration of rewind button on courtroom by Barbara Kelley

Recently, the Washington State Supreme Court decided State v. Keller. The Court’s decision reversed a 2022 Kitsap County District Court decision that ruled breathalyzers inadmissible in court. This high-profile case is discussed in a prior blog post due to its potential to affect on hundreds of DUI cases in Washington State.

In 2022, the Kitsap County District Court ruled breathalyzers inadmissible in court after it said it found state regulations surrounding the machine used by the Washington State Patrol were not followed.

The decision was a result of a case where in 2020 a Washington state man crashed his vehicle and failed a breath alcohol test. The man challenged the admission of the results and argued state regulations had not been followed.

The breath test machine, the Dräger Alcotest 9510, was approved by the Washington State Patrol toxicologist in 2010 and has been in common use since 2015.

The Drager machine determines someone’s blood alcohol level by calculating the average of four samples. Under state law, the calculations are rounded to four decimal places, however, the machine truncates rather than rounds to four decimal points.

The court agreed with the man’s arguments that regulations had not been followed and excluded the test results. The court ruled that statutes and regulations require the breathalyzer machine to perform the calculations itself.

Furthermore, court documents said the toxicologist knew about the calculation error and didn’t disclose the information until 2021.

The Kitsap case bypassed the typical appellate process and went straight to the state Supreme Court because of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding the case. The case could have had major implications for thousands of DUI cases due to law enforcement agencies statewide using the breathalyzer machine at the center of the case.

In the decision to hear the case, the Supreme Court Commissioner said, “This decision has the potential to affect a great number of Washington prosecutions for driving under the influence; this case involves significant public interest questions.”

THE COURT’S ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS

In its decision, the Supreme Court said current statutes and regulations don’t require the breathalyzer machine to calculate the average of the tests itself at the time of the test for it to be admissible in court. The Court said no source of law requires the calculation required by former WAC 448-16-060 to be performed by the breath test instrument. Also, the breath test results can be calculated in a different manner, as long as the different manners meet all other rules on admission of evidence in a criminal trial. Finally, the State can lay foundation for admitting the breath test by performing the required calculation at a later time.

With that, the Court reversed the district court’s evidentiary rulings and suppression order.

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

New Car Designs Also Create Blind Spots

I almost got hit by a car turning left today. I was able to get out of the way because I quickly realized I was in his A-pillar blindspot. I had recently

Photo Courtesy of Evo Magazine

Journalist Doug Dahl reports that visibility can be a big issue with new cars. In short, the popular A-Pillar car designs aren’t helpful for taller drivers, and can create blind spots.

WHAT IS AN “A-PILLAR” CAR DESIGN?

According to Wikipedia, one of the important design elements of modern cars is the A-pillar. This is because its location and angle impact the shape of the front of the car and the overall shape of modern vehicles or what designers call “volume.” For example, more forward positioned A-pillars provide for increased interior room and make for less angle and visual difference between the hood and windshield. This arrangement makes the side view of a car look aerodynamic. The A-pillars that are positioned further back on a vehicle are most often found on rear-wheel drive and SUV models. This arrangement provides a greater hood to windshield angle as well as achieving a bigger field of view for the driver, but at the disadvantage of encroaching on interior space.

“Big roof pillars protect vehicle occupants in a crash, but they’re bad for seeing pedestrians,” reports Dahl. “Giant displays in the car provide great maps for navigation, but they draw a driver’s focus away from the road. Cameras and sensors help the car assist you, but all the features can distract you from the actual driving. Misused, these ‘upgrades’ can put other road users at risk.”

We tend to link distracted driving with cell phones, but that’s only a piece of it. In the 2022 statewide distracted driving observational survey, over half of distracted drivers had diverted their attention to something other than a phone.

Distractions come in many forms. It could be spilled coffee, last minute personal grooming, kids in the back seat, eating any In N Out burger if you ordered it animal style, and fiddling with the technology that came with your car. Some of that tech was meant to keep drivers safer, but if you’re not familiar with it before you put the car in gear, trying to figure it out while driving takes attention away from where it belongs.

Despite all the potential distractions, most of the time drivers have their focus on the road. In the observational survey I mentioned, nine percent were engaged in distracting behaviors. But that small percentage has an outsized impact. Over the past ten years, distracted drivers have been involved in 23 percent of fatal crashes.

There is good news. Our attitudes about distracted driving have changed in recent years, and so have our behaviors. A decade ago, 69 percent of drivers admitted to using their phone while driving. In Washington’s most recent traffic safety survey, that dropped to less than one third. That’s translated into lives saved. In 2014 there were 171 fatalities involving distracted drivers. In 2022 there were 99.

We’ve gotten better at putting our phones down while driving. If we can also get better at avoiding all the other distractions, including the technology built into our vehicles (that’s often helpful but sometimes not so much) we’ll continue to move toward our goal of zero deaths on our roads.

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

Most Americans Cannot Believe Violent Crime is Decreasing

Reported violent crime rate in the U.S. 2022 | Statista

In an article from NPR, journalists , and report that Americans can’t believe that violent crime is decreasing.

In 2020, the United States experienced one of its most dangerous years in decades. According to FBI statistics, the number of murders across the country surged by nearly 30% between 2019 and 2020, The overall violent crime rate, which includes murder, assault, robbery and rape, inched up around 5% in the same period.

But in 2023, crime in America looked very different.

VIOLENCE HAS DROPPED

“At some point in 2022 — at the end of 2022 or through 2023 — there was just a tipping point where violence started to fall and it just continued to fall . . . The national picture shows that murder is falling. We have data from over 200 cities showing a 12.2% decline in 2023 relative to 2022.” ~Jeff Asher, a crime analyst and co-founder of AH Datalytics.

Citing his own analysis of public data, Mr. Asher also found instances of rape, robbery and aggravated assault were all down too. Yet when you ask people about crime in the country, the perception is it’s getting a lot worse.

THE GALLUP POLL

Gallup poll released in November found 77% of Americans believed there was more crime in the country than the year before. And 63% felt there was either a “very” or “extremely” serious crime problem — the highest in the poll’s history going back to 2000. So what’s going on?

WHY IS VIOLENT CRIME DECREASING?

For cities like San Francisco, Baltimore and Minneapolis, there may be different factors at play. And in some instances, it comes as the number of police officers declines, too.

Baltimore police are chronically short of their recruitment goal, and as of last September had more than 750 vacant positions, according to a state audit report. In Minneapolis, police staffing has plummeted. According to the Star Tribune, there are about 560 active officers — down from nearly 900 in 2019.

In Minneapolis, the city is putting more financial resources into nontraditional policing initiatives. The Department of Neighborhood Safety, which addresses violence through a public health lens, received $22 million in the 2024 budget. And in San Francisco, police there say they’ve been better at making arrests.

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

WA House Defeats Bill Allowing Judges to Dismiss Low-Level Crimes

Understanding how a California bill dies without public debate - capradio.org

Last week, the House decided to kill HB 1994, a bill relating to judicial dismissal of a misdemeanor following the completion of court-ordered conditions.

WHAT DID HB 1994 HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH?

Under the legislation, either the prosecutor or the defense attorney must first ask the judge to divert a defendant out of the criminal justice system. The defendant must agree to certain court conditions, such as engaging with service providers or treatment, and then, after up to a year of court monitoring, the judge can dismiss the case.

If passed, this bill would only have applies only to the lowest of low-level crimes. Judges could not dismiss charges in cases involving domestic violence, stalking, DUI, Assault or Firearms. The law also would not apply when a person pleads down from a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

If passed, the bill would also have potentially helped reduce the number of people with mental illness languishing in jails. This practice that has cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in federal fines.

Rep. Darya Farivar (D-Seattle) called House Bill 1994 a pretty “reasonable” piece of legislation that didn’t deserve backlash. The bill simply asks prosecutors to justify their prosecution of low-level offenses. This is especially important when it comes to cases involving people who committed a crime as a result of poverty, addiction, or a mental illness. Farivar hopes to end the practice of just sticking people with behavioral health problems in jail over and over again, and instead allow courts to address the root causes of criminal behavior prior to conviction.

The bill has the backing of the Governor’s office, as it could help the state come into compliance with the Trueblood v. DSHS settlement. This WA Supreme COurt case requires the Washington State DSHS to provide timely mental health restoration to people in jail. About 11% of Trueblood class members enter the criminal justice system on misdemeanor charges.

WHY DID THE HB 1994 FAIL TO PASS?

According to the Stranger, KING 5 and the Seattle Times played misrepresented the legislation. At the end of the day, the legislation lacked momentum and political will.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a crime. Dismissals of low-level charges are possible under Compromise of Misdemeanors, Knapstad Motions, Deferred Prosecutions and other avenues. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Cannabis Advocates: Biden is Missing an Opportunity Legalize Marijuana

Why Joe Biden's Marijuana Move Is a Midterm 'No Brainer'

The Hill reports that President Biden is missing an opportunity to sway young voters with his reluctance to take bigger steps to legalize marijuana at the federal level.

While campaigning for the White House in 2020, Biden said, “No one should be in jail because of marijuana. As President, I will decriminalize cannabis use and automatically expunge prior convictions.”

Cannabis advocates say the Biden administration has opened several avenues for marijuana reform. These include issuing federal pardons for simple possession and starting the process of potentially rescheduling marijuana’s status under the Controlled Substances Act from Schedule I to Schedule III.

But those measures have failed to excite advocates. They now say Biden is falling short of his 2020 campaign promises and failing to address the disparate overcriminalization of the drug that has unduly impacted minority communities. Progressive lawmakers in the Senate are urging the administration to go further and completely deschedule the drug. Legalization it would effectively decriminalize it at the federal level, as opposed to rescheduling it.

“Marijuana’s placement in the Controlled Substances Act] has had a devastating impact on our communities and is increasingly out of step with state law and public opinion,” 12 Democratic lawmakers wrote to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) last month.

IS THERE POLITICAL WILL TO LEGALIZE MARIJUANA?

Public opinion is strongly in favor of marijuana legalization. A Gallup poll from November found a record 70 percent of Americans believed marijuana should be legal.

More recent polling from Lake Research Partners backs up public support for federal marijuana reform, with 58 percent supporting a rescheduling to Schedule III, compared to 19 percent who opposed the move.

“It’s a really strong issue with some constituencies that Democrats really need to increase their support and enthusiasm, specifically young people, African Americans, Democratic base voters, people of color, young men of color,” said Celinda Lake, a Democratic pollster and strategist who serves as president of Lake Research Partners.

Hayley Matz Meadvin, Executive Vice President of Communications at Precision Strategies and a former Biden administration staffer, noted the “supermajority of support” behind marijuana legalization could help Biden lure in voters across the political spectrum.

“This is a popular issue that motivates voters, and it doesn’t just motivate — it clearly just doesn’t motivate exclusively Democrats. And that will be critical this fall.” ~Hayley Matz Meadvin, Executive Vice President of Communications at Precision Strategies

THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE

Biden and Trump, his likely 2024 rival, are polling neck and neck both nationally and in key swing states. The election could come down to a few thousand voters in those states, potentially giving niche issues such marijuana added importance.

Advocates say his actions so far fall short of that promise. And they said he may struggle to clearly communicate any progress on marijuana reform, especially as some actions are left unfinished; the DEA has yet to issue its decision on rescheduling marijuana, and the federal pardons issued last year could not apply to state-level convictions, though Biden has encouraged governors to follow his lead.

While marijuana reform may not be among the issues expected to dominate the 2024 elections, strategists note that smaller issues frequently break through the noise during election cycles.  Perhaps substantial marijuana reform action from Biden would signal to voters he is a “modern president” and could make a difference in states including Arizona, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin.

Please contact my office if you, a friend or family member are charged with a Drug Offense or any other crime. As of now, possessing marijuana is still a federal crime. Hiring an effective and competent defense attorney is the first and best step toward justice.

Animal Cruelty Bill Heads to the Senate

Craven County homeowners charged with animal cruelty after 42 dogs removed, two euthanized | WNCT

On Monday, the Washington House of Representatives passed a proposed bill that would increase penalties for animal cruelty cases. The bill would elevate the punishment for first-degree animal cruelty. The bill passed 95 to 1. It now heads to the Senate for further consideration. State Representative Sam Low, a Republican representing the 39th legislative district, is sponsoring the bill.

“Elevating to a ranked crime would add it to the sentencing guidelines grid, creating consistency for the judges and prosecuting attorneys,” Low said.

“Inconsistency in sentencing only benefits abusers. House Bill 1961 would establish a clear legal framework for these horrific cases, ensuring those who inflict suffering on defenseless animals face consequences that reflect the severity of their crimes . . . Washington state should always stand for justice and compassion for all living beings. Through this bill, we have an opportunity to give a voice to the voiceless and deter future acts of cruelty. I am grateful for today’s vote and look forward to seeing the same outcome in the Senate.” ~State Representative Sam Low

The proposed legislation would enhance first-degree animal cruelty to a ranked felony. Ranked felony offenses have a seriousness level assigned to them. In short, higher-ranked offenses bring more serious consequences. These levels range from Level 1 (lowest level) to Level 16 (highest level). For a Level 1 offense, for someone with an offender score of zero, their standard range is 0-2 months, if convicted of the offense. By comparison, a Level 7 felony offense for someone with an offender score of zero, is facing a standard sentencing range of 15-20 months.

Surprisingly, animal cruelty is a complex phenomenon. It involves a multitude of different situational factors, motives, and other potential cause. The most frequently reported forms of animal cruelty are related to neglect. Denial of food, water, and veterinary care occurs in many cases. The most common forms of animal cruelty are the restriction of movement, insufficient food or water, abandonment, neglect, lack of veterinary care, and assault. There is no single type of companion animal cruelty offense, nor is there one typical type of companion animal cruelty offender.

There are, however, defenses to lower-level  charges. For example, it is a defense to a charge of second degree animal cruelty that the defendant’s failure was due to economic distress beyond the defendant’s control. This can happen if the animal’s owner is  indigent, impoverished and/or simply cannot afford to care for the animal.

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.