Tag Archives: Skagit County Criminal Defense

Traffic Fatalities Reach High in 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Proposed Bills Seek to Change Washington’s Police Pursuit Law

Washington police report rise in indifference after no-pursuit law - FISM TV

Lawmakers will soon be considering proposals to change Washington’s law that restricts police pursuits. The three legislative proposals – HB 1053SB 5352, and HB1363 – would all change the law to remove language specifying the types of offenses for which an officer can initiate a pursuit.

The bills repeal a 2021 reform that limited officers to only chasing cars where the suspect is accused of a violent offense, a sex offense, or where the officer suspects DUI.

Law enforcement leaders in Washington have said the new law is emboldening criminals to flee from officers with the belief that they will not be pursued.

“I have never seen criminals as emboldened as they are now,” said Steve Strachan, the Executive Director of the Washington Association of Sheriff’s and Police Chiefs (WASPC). The WASPC sent a letter to lawmakers urging them to undo the 2021 reforms. In short the letter says that offenders have been given the advantage over victims of crimes.

“Recent policies restricting pursuits made driving a car a ‘get out of jail free’ card and creates conditions that empower criminals, jeopardize public safety, and diminishes the rule of law in Washington. We can fix the pursuit law to fall in line with Washington State’s duty of care standards and enable more discretion in engaging in police vehicle pursuits in a manner that offers a balance between the risk of the pursuit versus the reasons(s) for the pursuit. Severe prohibitions on vehicular pursuits need to be reversed.” ~WASPC Letter to Lawmakers.

Supporters of the 2021 reforms, however, argue pursuits present too much of a danger and want the law left alone.

The Washington Coalition for Police Accountability (WCPA) wrote a letter to lawmakers on Tuesday urging them to leave the law as is.

“We sincerely believe that if this law is rolled back, there will be a sharp increase of fatalities of bystanders and passengers. That is a high cost, is not necessary, and the policy change cannot be explained or justified.” ~WCPA

Governor Jay Inslee said last week he is open to changes in the state’s pursuit laws, but pushed back on the idea that the 2021 reform is responsible for an increase in crime.

“It’s a myth that the police accountability laws have caused some crime rave – the fact is crime has gone up across the United States. So the fact that the legislature passed some police accountability, rightfully so, I think it hasn’t caused crime to go up in New Jersey or Minnesota. This is not the reason we’re experiencing some additional crime in our in our state. It is a national phenomena,” ~Governor Jay Inslee.

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.

Washington is the Second-Worst State to Drive

See Where Washington Ranks Among The Worst States To Drive In | Q103.3

Apparently, Washington State is one of the worst states in the U.S. to drive in, according to a new report. Personal finance website WalletHub took a look at all 50 states to determine which are the best – and the worst – to drive in. Unfortunately, Washington State landed second from last on the list.

Traffic, road conditions and the cost of vehicle maintenance are all things that can make drivers nervous. These conditions vary across states for a variety of reasons including population, weather and government investments.

THE RANKING/GRADING CRITERIA.

To rank the states, WalletHub compared them across four key dimensions: 1. Cost of ownership and maintenance, 2. Traffic and infrastructure, 3. Safety and 4. Access to vehicles and maintenance.

Researchers then broke those dimensions down into 31 relevant metrics, including things like average gas prices, the share of rush-hour traffic congestion, number of days with precipitation, road quality, traffic fatality rate, car theft rate and auto-repair shops per capita.

Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the best for drivers. WalletHub determined each state’s weighted average across all metrics to calculate its overall score.

THE RESULTS: WA STATE RANKS SECOND-TO-LAST IN WORST STATES TO DRIVE IN.

When the scores were determined, WalletHub’s report shows that Washington ranked 49th overall among 50 states, making it the second-worst state to drive in. The state ranked 47th among all states for its cost of vehicle ownership and maintenance and 39th among states for traffic and infrastructure. Both scores contributed greatly to the state finishing so low on the list.

The only state worse to drive in than Washington, according to the report, is Hawaii.

In the report, WalletHub asked experts how states can reduce the number of traffic fatalities. Dr. Arman Sargolzaei, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Southern Florida said the vast majority of U.S. traffic accidents are entirely or partially due to human error.

“A shift in responsibilities from the human driver to self-driving cars can potentially reduce accidents,” ~Dr. Arman Sargolzaei.

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.

WA Supreme Court on Accessing Justice During the Pandemic: “Our Work Isn’t Done.”

COVID-19 and the Courts | RAND

In a press release, the Washington Courts describe the huge strides they’ve taken to keep courts accessible and safe during the pandemic. And in doing so, the judiciary learned a great deal about everyday challenges to equity and accessing justice for state residents. WA Supreme Court Chief Steven C. González addressed the matter in a joint session of the state Legislature.

“The pandemic made clearer than ever the inequities within our justice system, but by making them more visible, the pandemic also made them more addressable,” ~WA Supreme Court Chief Steven C. González.

The speech was broadcast live and recorded by TVW. A written State of the Judiciary report was released to lawmakers, judicial branch leaders and the public following the oral address.

González highlighted some key work and responses by the judicial branch to challenges and revelations:

  • Remote proceedings, now and future – Courts have broadly expanded remote proceedings to maintain safety during the pandemic, and in doing so learned a great deal about struggles to access courts. “Remote access has relieved the burden of travel for those unable to afford child care or to take off from work. It has allowed disabled people better, more inclusive access to justice,” Justice González said. Courts have launched remote and hybrid trials, have expanded electronic filing and use of electronic signatures, and have provided remote technology to litigants who did not have it. “Some of these pandemic necessities have become so effective, we will adopt rules to make them permanent. We’re in that process now.”
  • Racial disparities remain – The Board for Judicial Administration launched a Court Recovery Task Force to catalog pandemic revelations and adaptations and provide support and information. After the killing of George Floyd, the task force expanded its work to include examination of ongoing racial disparities in the justice system. Its final report is titled, “Re-Imagining Our Courts.” Powerful data on disparities in the justice system were also detailed in reports by The Race and Justice Task Force and the Gender and Justice Commission. “This hard data reinforces what many know from their own lived experiences, but these reports give us tangible, actionable data that we can point to as we push for improvements.”
  • Making progress – González highlighted expanded access to court interpreters enabled by the legislature, expanded use of therapeutic courts across the state which have proven successful in addressing underlying causes of criminal activity, new communication channels between state branches of government such as the new Interbranch Advisory Committee, and ongoing efforts such a Washington state court rule addressing both explicit and implicit bias in jury selection – the first in the nation to do so, and now a national model.
  • Immediate challenges – In addition to other ongoing issues, González pointed to significant concerns involving court fines and fees being used to fund so much of court operations, particularly technology system, and court security risks. “All too much of the funding for our IT systems come from district and municipal court fees and fines,” he said, which criminalize poverty. “These are disparately imposed on the poorest and most marginalized communities. This needs to change. It’s the right thing to do.” Maintaining secure, safe courts is also an issue affecting access to justice and the functions of a democratic society, he said, and court security concerns and incidents have been growing.

“We’ve travelled far along the road to justice, and we still have more to go . . . We need your help to continue that progress. I look forward to working with all of you to fulfill the great promise of our  nation of equal justice for all.” ~WA Supreme Court Chief Steven C. González.

My opinion? The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and exacerbated inequities in our justice system. Our courts and legal service providers have been forced to curtail in-person operations. This has occurred often without the resources or technology to offer remote-access or other safe alternatives. Fortunately, our courts have takes impressive strides forward and effectively pivoted under the circumstances.

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.

Cross-Racial Identification

Frontiers | The Own-Race Bias for Face Recognition in a Multiracial Society

In State v. Butler, the WA Supreme Court upheld a defendant’s conviction for assault and held there was insufficient evidence supporting a jury instruction for false cross-racial identification.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Butler, a Black man, was convicted of assaulting two security officers in separate incidents at two Seattle light rail stations. Both assaults were caught on camera and the assailant appeared to be the same person in both. One of the victims, who appears to be white, identified Butler as his assailant at trial. The victim had not made an out-of-court identification. The victim did not identify Butler until the CrR 3.5 hearing and then at trial.

Naturally, the primary issue at trial was the identity of the assailant. The State sought to prove Butler was the person in the videos. The State argued that Butler was of the same build and race as the assailant. He also wore the same clothes and carried the same items—including the same shoes, skateboard, and backpack.

Butler asked the trial court to instruct the jury according to the pattern jury instruction on eyewitness identifications. It includes optional bracketed language that the jury may consider the witness’s familiarity or lack of familiarity with people of the perceived race or ethnicity of the perpetrator of the act.  The trial court agreed to give the pattern jury instruction, but declined to include that optional language. Mr. Butler was found guilty at trial.

On appeal, Butler argued that the trial court denied his right to present a defense by failing to give the cross-racial identification portion of the pattern instruction. The Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion because there was insufficient evidence supporting the instruction, and it upheld Butler’s conviction. The WA Supreme Court addressed the issue and granted review.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The WA Supreme Court acknowledges racial bias is pervasive in our society.  However, it declined the chance to adopt a model jury instruction on cross-racial eyewitness identifications or to require that instruction be given whenever the defendant requests it. The Court’s review was strictly limited to considering whether the optional language on cross-racial identification should have been given.

Although Butler argued for a violation of his Due Process right to present a defense, S.Ct. concludes Butler was able to attack AV’s credibility and pursue his defense on the unreliability of the identification with the instructions that were given.

There was no abuse of discretion in denying the requested language in the instruction because the court reasonably concluded there was not sufficient evidence in the record supporting such a jury instruction.

“We leave for another day broader questions about what steps courts should take to mitigate the significant risk that eyewitness identifications are unreliable in the cross-racial context.” ~WA Supreme Court.

CONCURRING OPINIONS – CHIEF JUSTICE STEVEN GONZALEZ & JUSTICE MARY YU

Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez wrote a separate concurring opinion. He reluctantly concurred only because Butler did not lay a foundation for the instruction he requested. However, Justice Gonzalez also took the opportunity to offer a deeper perspective on the negative impacts of improper identification of defendants.

“Mistaken eyewitness identifications have resulted in many innocent people being wrongfully convicted in our nation . . . The particular weaknesses of cross-racial identifications have been well known and well documented for decades.” ~WA Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez

Justice Gonzalez urged our Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Committee to craft an instruction that reflects what we have learned about the weaknesses of cross-racial identification.

Justice Mary Yu also wrote a concurring separate opinion. Similar to Justice Gonzalez, she recommended that Washington adopt an instruction that fully and accurately reflects the proven weaknesses of cross-racial identification.

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

Sentencing Enhancements For Dealing Drugs Near School Zones

Drug Problem Facing Local Campus - Newport Beach News

In State v. Richter, the WA Court of Appeals held that the Blake decision does not invalidate the enhancement for trafficking drugs within 1000’ of a school bus route stop just because a drug dealer might deal drugs without knowing he or she is close to such a stop.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Mr. Richter was convicted of three counts of delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a school bus route stop and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. The trial court imposed an exceptional upward sentence of 168 months based in part on former RCW 69.50.435(1)(c). The statute allows judges to double the statutory maximum sentences for drug offenses that occurred in certain locations.

Richter appeals his sentence. Among other things, he argued his sentence violated due process under the reasoning in State v. Blake, In the Blake case, the Washington Supreme Court struck down Washington’s drug possession statute, because the statute violated due process and was therefore void. The law criminalized “unknowing” drug possession. As a result,  people could be arrested and convicted even if they did not realize they had drugs in their possession.  Consequently, Mr. Richter hoped that his appeal would persuade the WA Court of Appeals to reverse his conviction for the same reasons.

COURT’S ANALYSIS & CONCLUSIONS

The WA Court of Appeals began by summarizing the Blake decision. In Blake, the WA Supreme Court declared Washington’s statute criminalizing simple possession of a controlled substance to be unconstitutional because the statute allowed conviction even if the possession was unknowing.

The Court of Appeals emphasized that Blake court held that active trafficking in drugs was not innocent conduct. States have criminalized knowing drug possession nationwide, and there is plenty of reason to know that illegal drugs are highly regulated. The Court of Appeals also emphasized that the Blake court then distinguished the unconstitutional simple possession statute from other valid strict liability crimes. Ultimately, the difference hinges on whether the statutes penalize conduct or passive and innocent nonconduct.

That, reasoned the Court of Appeals, is where Mr. Richter’s argument on appeal collapsed.

The statute imposed increased consequences for affirmative conduct, not the kind of passive nonconduct that the Blake court declared to be innocent:

“Here, although Richter may not have known that he was within a school bus route stop zone, he does not dispute that he intended to sell methamphetamine, and the delivery amounted to affirmative conduct. Therefore, the Blake court’s reasoning does not apply to this case or to former RCW 69.50.435(1) more generally.” ~WA Court of Appeals.

With that, the Court of Appeals denied Richter’s appeal on this issue.

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

Increased DUI Patrols in Whatcom this New Year’s Weekend

Celebrate safely, avoid a DWI on New Year's Eve - AvvoStories

Informative article by journalist Alyse Smith reports that Whatcom County police will increase the number of patrols through Jan. 1st. This comes with an effort to prevent “further tragedy by removing impaired drivers from Washington roads,” according to a Washington Traffic Safety Commission news release.

As traffic deaths reached a 20-year high in 2021, 2022 had an even higher number of fatalities, with 15% more deaths in 2022 from January through October alone. More than half of traffic fatalities each year involve impaired drivers, according to the news release.

“Impaired driving crashes are totally preventable. We can all do our part to keep impaired drivers off our roads so that no one has to miss their loved ones during the holiday season.” ~Mark McKechnie, Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

If you’re out driving in Whatcom County and a police officer pulls you over, there are a few things you can expect if you are driving impaired, according to Carr Lanham, Target Zero manager for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission.

If a police officer is attempting to pull you over, pull over and stop at the next safest location where you and the police officer can safely get off the road. You should not get out of your vehicle, but keep your hands on the steering wheel until the officer asks you to get your license, registration and proof of insurance, according to Lanham.

People arrested for DUI in Whatcom County are booked into the Whatcom County Jail, and bail is not available until they go before a judge.

The minimum consequence for a DUI arrest in Whatcom County is 24 hours in jail, and the maximum penalty is 365 days, unless it is a felony DUI arrest, according to Lanham. There is a maximum fine of $5,000, and those convicted of a DUI can also receive a 90-day suspension of license, be ordered to alcohol and drug treatment and a five-year probation, according to Lanham.

The commission also encourages drivers to avoid driving impaired, and advises drivers who know they will be drinking alcohol or using cannabis to arrange a ride home ahead of time or call a rideshare service. And if you see a driver who is driving erratically and may be impaired, the commission encourages you to call 911.

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.

Should Prison Inmates Get Minimum Wage for Prison Jobs?

Sell Block: The empty promises of prison labor

Excellent article by Journalist Drew Mikkelsen reports that WA State Representative Tarra Simmons wants to start paying inmates minimum wage for prison jobs.

According to the Department of Corrections (DOC), 1,600 offenders currently work in-custody jobs. They pay between 65 cents to $2.70 per hour. Inmates are paid to work in prison kitchens, they build office furniture and assemble eyeglasses.

DOC spokesperson Chris Wright said those are “one of the top hourly rates in the country.”

“This is an evolution of slavery,” said state Representative Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton. Simmons is believed to be the first person convicted of a felony to get elected to serve in Olympia. She served a 30-month prison sentence for drug and theft charges. She worked in the kitchen, laundry room, and as a custodian. “When I was incarcerated I was paid 42 cents an hour,” said Simmons. Her proposal would place half of an inmate’s earnings into an account that could not be accessed until the inmate’s release.

“If people can leave with enough money to have transportation, for housing, clothing, food and potentially some job training, hopefully they will have a better chance at not coming back,” ~Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton

Simmons said the issue will come up for debate in the upcoming legislative session, which starts in January.

Mrs. Simmons is quite remarkable. She’s a politician, convicted felon, lawyer, and civil rights activist for criminal justice reform. In 2011 Simmons was sentenced to 30 months in prison for theft and drug crimes. In 2017, she graduated from Seattle University School of Law with honors. After law school, she was not allowed to sit for the Washington State bar exam due to her status as a former convicted felon.

Consequently, she challenged the Washington State Bar Association rules in the Washington State Supreme Court and won with the court unanimously ruling in her favor. She was later sworn in as an attorney in the State of Washington on June 16, 2018. Simmons is the executive director for a nonprofit focused on assisting those that are formerly incarcerated, known as the Civil Survival Project

Republican Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, said the inmates are enough of a tax burden on the state:

“To me, it doesn’t make much sense . . . There’s no end to what we can do with other people’s money.” ~Republican Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn

Mt opinion? Prison is big business. The state of Washington saves millions by paying inmates pennies per hour for work done behind bars.Billions of dollars in revenue are generated by both the private prison industry and the labor of individuals who are incarcerated. From desks to textiles, a complex web of manufacturing is produced each day in New York Prisons—in fact, every New York license plate is created by an individual with justice involvement. Though their work results in billions of dollars, individuals with justice involvement receive literal pennies in return.

Of course, the best route is to avoid prison altogether. 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.

Fentanyl’s Path to the United States

The fentanyl trip: How the drug is coming to America - ABC News

Intriguing WSJ article by Brian Spegele discusses how Chinese chemical companies are producing more ingredients for illegal fentanyl than ever. Consequently, this has strained relations between Beijing and Washington are undermined efforts to stop the flow.

Among the available products are compounds with obscure names such as N-Phenyl-4-piperidinamine, which Mexican cartels purchase to make into fentanyl. The opioid has become the most deadly illegal drug the U.S. has ever seen.

WHY HAS THIS HAPPENED?

In 2018, China restricted the production and sale of two of the most common ingredients for the drug. This move won it praise from the U.S. Since then, the U.S. has adopted a tougher posture toward China. Simultaneously, China has also grown more assertive about defending its interests. As a consequence, the cooperation on combating the drug trade has broken down.

Conversations about fentanyl between China and officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration and State Department have ceased, according to Biden administration officials. Also, U.S. officials said China cut off all talks over fentanyl after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan. Apparently, Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan angered China.

Since then, the flow of Chinese chemicals to Mexican drug cartels has created a major challenge in the U.S.-China relationship.

CHINA’S RESPONSE TO THE ACCUSATIONS.

China places the blame squarely on the U.S. “As a matter of fact, it is the U.S. that has undermined China-U. S. counter-narcotics cooperation,” said Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for China’s embassy in Washington.

China has also said the U.S. should address its drug crisis by curbing demand. “The U.S. must look squarely at its own problem instead of deflecting blame,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin at an August news conference.

China’s government considers biopharmaceuticals an important economic driver and has no incentive to overregulate the sector.

CHINA’S CONNECTION TO MEXICAN CARTELS.

Accoring to the article, chemical companies in China target Mexican buyers online. The companies say they accept payment in cryptocurrency, and they use encrypted channels to talk with customers.

Some Chinese nationals working with cartels moved to Mexico and adopted local names as part of money-laundering rings, say federal prosecutors. One such network funneled drug proceeds from New York through China’s banking system and ultimately to Mexico.

The U.S. has charged Chinese citizens whom prosecutors accuse of helping cartels supercharge the fentanyl trade. Because the countries have no extradition treaty, some of the accused remain at large.

ULTIMATUMS FROM THE UNITED STATES TO CHINA.

U.S. officials say they have urged China to take three steps to constrict the fentanyl trade: (1) require Chinese companies to know the identities of customers before shipping chemicals; (2) ensure that such shipments are properly labeled for customs inspectors; and (3) create a system to track shipment volumes and trends.

Homeland Security agents and Mexican authorities stopped about 24,000 pounds of cutting agents coming from China to dilute high-purity fentanyl synthesized by cartels in Mexico in October 2020. Agents also blocked 1,600 pounds of 4-AP coming into Mexico from China and 1.5 million pounds of ingredients for meth from China and India, in 2021 and 2022.

Agents traced the chemicals to high-level buyers inside a Mexican cartel. The transactions, through brokers and shell companies, were arranged so the chemical makers in China might not have known who bought the chemicals in Mexico.

My opinion? Unfotunately, this news reveals how high-level politics have globalized the drug trade of Fentanyl into the U.S. Fentanyl is the deadliest drug threat facing this country. It is a highly addictive man-made opioid that is 50 times more potent than heroin. Just two milligrams of fentanyl, the small amount that fits on the tip of a pencil, is considered a potentially deadly dose.

That said, Washington has legalized the possession of small amounts of drugs. In March 2021, the WA supreme court threw out the existing felony drug law in its “Blake” decision. Consequently, possessing small amounts of drugs including heroin, methamphetamine, fentanyl and cocaine has effectively been decriminalized in Washington. Therefore, simply because you’re caught with drugs doesn’t mean you’re selling drugs, which is still illegal.

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.

FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics in Whatcom County

United States Department of Justice-Hate Crimes-Learn More

Informative article by Robert Mittendorf discusses the FBI’s recent statistics on Whatcom County’s Hate Crime numbers. The FBI’s report included incidents from 2021 that were reported from numerous police agencies. Information was gleaned from Bellingham Police, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, Western Washington University Police, Lummi Nation and Nooksack tribal police, and police in Blaine, Everson, Ferndale, Lynden and Sumas.

A total of 12 hate crimes were reported in Whatcom County in 2021, down from 20 in 2020. As a caveat, Whatcom County agencies did not report bias incidents, which often don’t meet the legal standard for a hate crime. Malicious Harassment is what a hate crime is called in Washington state. It must include an assault or vandalism, or cause reasonable fear in the victim.

The 2021 crime statistics included the following:

  • Bellingham reported nine incidents, including six with racial motivation, one with religious overtones and two that involved sexual orientation. That overall figure was down from 14 incidents that Bellingham Police reported to the FBI in 2020. One incident was anti-white and another was anti-Protestant, according to the data.
  • Three of the six racially motivated incidents in 2021 were directed at people of Asian heritage, who have faced increasing harassment in recent years.
  • Whatcom County reported a single hate crime in 2021, an incident that was listed as anti-Hispanic or Latino.
  • A total of four hate crimes were reported by the Sheriff’s Office in 2020. Members of the Whatcom County Council voted 4-3 to form a Racial Equity Commission earlier this year, and both the Bellingham City Council and the Whatcom County Council have said that racism is a public health crisis.
  • Western Washington University reported two hate crimes in 2021, both based on religion. WWU also reported two incidents in 2020. One victim at WWU was of the Sikh faith and the other was Jewish, according to the report. WWU has seen several racial bias incidents this fall, including those directed at Jews, Iranian Muslims and Blacks, The Herald has reported.
  • Lynden Police reported a single hate crime in 2021, an assault where gender identity was the motive.
  • Police in Blaine, Everson, Ferndale and Sumas reported no hate crimes that met FBI guidelines in 2021.
  • Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribal Police reported no hate crimes in 2021.

My opinion? Hate crimes occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by race, religion, color, national origin (or ethnicity), age, disability, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. Hate crimes are different because they’re not always directed simply at an individual. They are meant to cause fear and intimidation in an entire group or class of people.

However, simply because someone believes they are victimized for their race, religion, etc., doesn’t always mean they are actually victims of hate crimes. Perhaps the perpetrator suffered from a mental health episode. Perhaps a lack of evidence may exist. Or perhaps the alleged victim was overly sensitive. And we can’t overlook the fact that some want to increase such prosecutions by defining so-called “hate speech” as a hate crime. “Cancel culture” and “trigger warnings” are bad enough, but criminalizing speech that some find offensive?

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.


Alexander F. Ransom

Attorney at Law
Criminal Defense Lawyer

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

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

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

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