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.


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.


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.