Seattle Police Stop Making Arrests for Drug Possession

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Mar 24

Lewis & Laws

Seattle Police Stop Making Arrests for Drug Possession

by Lewis & Laws

Seattle Police Stop Making Arrests for Drug Possession

On February 25, 2021, a Washington State Supreme Court struck down Washington’s felony drug possession law. They ruled 5 to 4 that the state’s drug possession law was unconstitutional. Why? Because unlike other states, Washington’s drug possession law did not make exceptions for individuals who were unknowingly possessing drugs.

This new ruling leaves the state without a drug possession law for the time being. As a result, many police departments, including those in Seattle and Bellevue, ordered their officers to stop making arrests for simple drug possession. Officers began to make that change immediately and refused to arrest individuals based on possessing a drug or controlled substance. The Seattle Police Department also said they would not confiscate drugs based only on the violation of the old drug possession laws.

However, officers are still allowed to make arrests for individuals in possession of a larger volume of a controlled substance. They can also make arrests if they believe that individuals are selling or distributing drugs. So, having a controlled substance on your person or in your car, along with distribution material, will still land you behind bars.

This new ruling also impacts people who are currently in jail on drug possession charges. Many are in the process of being released or having their cases reviewed.

Residents of Seattle and Bellevue are fearful that this change will only increase crime in communities that have already seen too much crime in recent years. Police officers want to reassure the public that they will still be out in the communities supporting residents and deter crime.

A New Way to Address Drug Crimes in Washington?

Many reform advocates are hopeful that the new ruling will help Washington correct the errors of the past. The war on drugs had a disproportionate impact on communities of color. In 1976, communities of color made up 22 percent of drug-related arrests. By 1992, the war on drugs resulted in more than 40 percent of drug-related arrests coming from communities of color. However, studies continued to show that Black people were no more likely to use drugs than white people. Yet, they were disproportionately arrested and jailed for even minor drug possession offenses.

They are also hopeful that the new WA Supreme Court ruling will bring about a new way to address drug crimes in the state. Instead of simply placing individuals in jail for possession, they’re hoping that the state can implement other systems to get them the help they need.

The idea is to connect people with the programs and interventions they need to change their behaviors. Better access to diversion programs, rehabilitation centers, and community outreach programs may help individuals get off drugs and back on their feet. Over the last several decades, drug laws have focused too harshly on punishment and not enough on rehabilitation. Many are now hopeful that the tides are changing.

Earlier in February, Oregon became the first state to decriminalize small possession of drugs. Instead, drug possession for small amounts of heroin, LSD, oxycodone and other drugs are handled differently. Now, individuals face fines and a health assessment to help them get into addiction counseling. Could Washington become the second state to do the same?

Contact Our Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you have been arrested for drug possession in Washington, we can help. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers know that the laws are changing rapidly right now. As such, we can help you get out of jail and back on your feet as painlessly as possible.

At Lewis & Laws, PLLC, we have defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Kirkland, and throughout the state of Washington. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our confidential contact form. Call us today!

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