Will Communities in Washington Get to Decide Punishment for Convicted Felons?

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Dec 10

Lewis & Laws

Will Communities in Washington Get to Decide Punishment for Convicted Felons?

by Lewis & Laws

Will Communities in Washington Get to Decide Punishment for Convicted Felons?

King County is one of the most populous counties in the state of Washington. It is home to more than 2.25 million people who live in Seattle and its surrounding communities. Here, big changes may be happening in the criminal justice system. The county recently approved funding for a new criminal justice diversion program as part of a two-year $12.59 billion budget. This budget includes more than $6 million to keep juveniles out of the juvenile justice system by instituting a Restorative Community Pathways system. It also includes a plan to allow community groups, instead of courts, to decide punishments for low-level adult felonies.

How would this work?

Instead of facing a judge for sentencing, community members would meet to determine how the offender should be held accountable. Potential paths may include mental health counseling, drug treatment programs, school or work programs, and other interventions designed specifically to rehabilitate instead of punish low-level felons. The goal is to give them new opportunities in life. If they do not participate in the program, these offenders would still face traditional prosecution.

Those who support this new model believe that it will better serve juveniles, as well as low-level adult felons, and help them turn their lives around. With more aggressive support, offenders will gain access to services to help them stay out of trouble and out of the criminal justice system. Prosecutors hope to be able to divert more than 400 cases to the Restorative Community Pathways in 2021 and nearly 800 in 2022. It also hopes to divert more than 1000 adult felony cases through the adult program in 2021.

Who might be able to participate?

The program will be open to first-time offenders who have been accused of non-violent crimes. Prosecutors will have the ultimate say over which cases are diverted to these programs, but they must be non-violent crimes. If an offender is suspected of committing a crime that involves injury to another person, domestic violence, sexual assault, or weapons, they are automatically not eligible for the program.

Through these diversion programs, courts hope to free up resources to better tackle more serious offenses, while giving offenders accused of lesser crimes a better path to a brighter future. This may also help people of color who are often disproportionately arrested for lower level offenses.

Were You Arrested and Charged With a Crime in Seattle?

The Seattle justice system is changing, which could significantly impact anyone arrested and charged with a crime. As these laws change, new opportunities may emerge for individuals who are facing non-violent crimes, especially first-time offenders. For this reason, it is important to speak to an experienced and skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney. Your attorney will be able to review your legal options with you and may be able to work with prosecutors to have your case diverted through one of these new programs.

No matter how serious or minor the charges are against you, you deserve to have someone on your side who can fight for your rights and your future. Even minor criminal charges can escalate and wreck your entire life. A felony conviction, even a minor one, can have a ripple effect throughout your life and interfere with your ability to maintain employment, gain housing, and even attend the university of your choice.

Contact Our Seattle Defense Lawyers Today

If you face criminal charges in Seattle, it is important to know where you can turn for help. Our Seattle criminal defense attorneys can examine your case and help you review your legal options. We can work to keep you out of jail every step of the way and prevent serious charges from harming your future.

The experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC, 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. We know how to fight serious criminal charges and can protect your future. Call us today!

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