New Hope to Erase Criminal Records

Most people are eligible to vacate a conviction under the New Hope law of 2019.

A criminal conviction can negatively impact a person, their children, and our communities. A criminal charge can deny opportunities for education, housing, employment, and even volunteering at schools. We believe every person convicted of a crime deserves a second chance to become a contributing member of our community.

Vacating a conviction clears a criminal record and allows a person to reintegrate into society without the stigma of a conviction. The Court withdraws the offender’s plea of guilty and dismisses the case. The Order will state that the offender can officially say for all purposes, including responding to questions on employment applications, that he has never been convicted of the offense. A conviction that has been vacated may not be disclosed or disseminated by a law enforcement agency.

However, you must meet certain criteria and petition the Court to successfully vacate a conviction. The Washington State Legislature removed several barriers by passing the New Hope Act. The Act was passed on April 3, 2019 and goes into effect on July 28, 2019.

The New Hope Act allows a person to petition the court to vacate multiple misdemeanors and felony convictions. It added additional felony offenses that can be removed if a person demonstrates they have been rehabilitated. The Act streamlined the process by improving the procedure for certifying a sentence was completed, lifting financial restrictions, and shortening the time period between the conviction and the vacate action.

When people who have proven they can be law abiding members of society, they deserve a chance to start over. Contact our Lynnwood law office to see if you are eligible for this life changing opportunity.

Washington Death Penalty Ruled Unconstitutional

Washington’s death penalty laws have been declared unconstitutional not once, not twice, but three times.  The Washington State Supreme Court did so again on October 11, 2018.

The defendant, Allen Gregory was convicted of multiple heinous crimes in 1996. He viciously raped, robbed, and murdered the victim. He was found guilty and the jury presided over the penalty phase of his trial. They determined there was not enough mitigating circumstances to merit leniency and sentenced him to death.

The Court did not rule that the death penalty is per se unconstitutional.  However, they declared the death penalty was invalid because it is imposed in an arbitrary and racially biased manner.  The Court stated, “ While this particular case provides an opportunity to specifically address racial disproportionality, the underlying issues that underpin our holding are rooted in the arbitrary manner in which the death penalty is generally administered.”  Mr. Gregory, the Defendant, argued the use of the death penalty is unequally applied—sometimes by where the crime took place, or the county of residence, or the available budgetary resources at any given point in time, or the race of the defendant. The Court agreed and held that the death penalty, as administered in our state, fails to serve any legitimate penological goal; thus, it violates article I, section 14 of our state constitution.

 

Changes to Driver’s Licenses and ID Cards

Changes to Driver’s Licenses and ID Cards

Beginning July 2018, changes will be coming to all new licenses and all renewals or replacements after that date. All standard licenses will have ‘FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” at the top of each card which will indicate the license is not valid for federal purposes. Starting in October 2020, standard Washington licenses and ID cards will no longer be accepted as ID for federal purposes. This includes air travel. Enhanced licenses are still valid for this purpose. Adding “FEDERAL LIMITS APPLY” helps Washington State comply with REAL ID. The REAL ID Act, passed by Congress in 2005, enacted the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation that the Federal Government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” The government believes secure driver’s licenses are a vital component of our national security and is requiring compliance from every State.

The DRIVES system will be another change beginning September 4, 2018. This means all new and renewed licenses will receive a different number. These will start with “WDL” followed by random alphabetical letters and numbers. This new system enables DOL to have more combinations to choose for new licenses. It also is more secure because it does not use the name or birth date.

These changes are expected to take six years to be completed. The slow change is expected to help drivers get used to the new format.

 

Legalizing Drugs in Snohomish and King County

The Snohomish County prosecutors have a new policy not to file criminal charges against people caught with less than 2 grams of drugs. The decision was made to reduce their heavy caseloads and to allow prosecutors more time to focus on serious offenses. King County has adopted a similar policy.

Not everyone believes this is a wise decision. The criminal justice system and the threat of incarceration forces people to make critical life changing decisions. Addicts are more likely to seek treatment when jail is hanging over their head. Some fear that the changes will lead to an increase in property crime and eventually could result in a rise in more serious offenses.

It’s a bold shift in policy but it’s worth the gamble. Let prosecutors use their resources on serious cases and give small time addicts a chance to avoid a felony conviction. Most addicts want to overcome their addiction and have made multiple attempts to do so. The new policy gives them a second chance at rehabilitation but social service programs need public support to avoid a shift back to mass incarceration.

Contact our office to learn about your options if you have been charged with a drug offense in Snohomish or King County.
Michael P. Sheehy
(425) 778-6900
19000 – 33rd Ave West, Ste 100
Lynnwood, WA 98036

Startling Video of Seattle Police Shooting at Fleeing Vehicle

Police Officers have a dangerous job and are expected to run toward danger, make split second decisions, and risk their lives to help others.   The decisions they make can have life altering consequences.  The question is whether they should be held to the same legal standard as an average citizen when they make a poor decision in the line of duty.  Washington enacted the nation’s most restrictive law on holding officers accountable for the unjustified use of deadly force.

Police officers cannot be prosecuted for killing someone in the line of duty as long as they acted in good faith and without evil intent.   Proving malice or evil intent makes it virtually impossible to prosecute an officer even if he committed a wrongful killing.  Fatal police shootings have been determined unjustified but not sufficient to prosecute under the evil intent standard.  Remember John T. Williams and Charleena Lyles?   Only one officer has been prosecuted in the last decade in Washington State for an unjustified killing and that resulted in an acquittal.

On the other hand, the legal standard for the average citizen is much different.   A person can be prosecuted for murder if they acted negligently, recklessly, or intentionally.  The Government does not need to prove whether the person had evil intent or not.  Citizens can assert self-defense and use deadly force if they believe they are facing grave danger.  Why shouldn’t law enforcement officers have the same standard?  Why must the State prove an additional element of evil intent for an officer?  Unfortunately, if the law is not changed, we will continue to have officers recklessly shooting at a fleeing vehicle that is not endangering anyone.

Watch the video.  The driver attempted to run the officer over and has been charged with multiple felonies.  The officers had a right to discharge their firearms when the car drove toward them.  But, the officers are being investigated for misconduct because they continued to shoot at the fleeing vehicle when it was no longer posing a threat to law enforcement officers or the public.  Was their conduct reasonable or not?

Court Overturns DUI Conditions

Overturned DUI ConditionsPeople arrested and accused of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) are required to abide by conditions until the case is resolved.  The conditions normally include not to drive without a valid license and insurance, not to have any other law violations, and not to consume alcohol.  Some courts in Washington imposed an additional requirement to submit to random urinalysis tests as a condition of release.  The Washington State Supreme court ruled on October 5, 2017 that forcing a urinalysis as a pre-trial release condition is unconstitutional and constitutes an acute privacy invasion by the Government.

My favorite quote from the Supreme Court states, “it is difficult to imagine an affair more private than the passing of urine…..Most people describe euphemisms if they talk about it at all.  It is a function traditionally performed without public observation; indeed, its performance in public is generally prohibited by law as well as social custom.”

The Court should be applauded for holding the government in check and protecting our privacy interests!

Part II: Seattle Prostitution Sting Continues Over Public Outcry

Several months ago hundreds of men were arrested in a prostitution sting operation conducted by the Seattle Police Department at a massage parlor. Female police officers dressed in disguises and offered customers a massage and a sexual act for compensation. See Prostitution Sting by Seattle Police
here. The public voiced concerns about wasting tax payer dollars on expensive undercover operations and argued the money should be used to prosecute more serious crimes like drug dealing or drunk driving.

However, the Seattle City Attorney’s Office and the Seattle Police Department disagreed and approved more undercover arrests. A prostitution sting on Aurora Avenue between June 24 and July 1, 2017 netted over a hundred arrests. Read about the penalties and what to expect if arrested for Solicitation or Sexual Exploitation.

The number of arrests has created a backlog of uncharged cases. The City is still filing criminal cases from last year’s sting operation. The Prosecutors are concerned about creating a burden on the court system if all the cases are charged at the same time. Defense attorneys are also slowing the government down by filing motions to dismiss and challenging the undercover operations. Time is running out on some uncharged cases. The statute of limitation under Washington law allows the government one year to file a misdemeanor offense.

Members of the criminal defense bar have formed a working group to challenge the cases on numerous constitutional grounds and government misconduct. One concern is the inaccurate labelling of the criminal offense as “sexual exploitation” versus patronizing a prostitute as used under the State statute. The former label implies the undercover officer is exploited in a felonious manner. Inaccurate descriptions of a criminal offense are misinterpreted by members of the public and potential employers. The Constitution and several statutes require an accurate description and proper notice of what constitutes a violation of our criminal code.

The motions to dismiss have been filed in front of several Seattle Municipal Court Judges and will be heard in the next few months. Contact our office to learn more about Sexual Exploitation charges and what defenses are available.

Tougher Distracted Driving Law Begins in July

Who has not used a cell phone while driving? Beware! A tougher texting while driving law went into effect on July 23, 2017. Ten percent of Washingtonians use their cell phones while driving at any given time according to a recent study. Unfortunately, distracted driving kills 9 people every day, injures 390,000 people every year, and makes drivers 23 times more likely to crash. The Washington Legislature passed an Act called Driving Under the Influence of Electronics (DUIE) to address concerns with distracted driving. Studies show the distraction from using your phone is equivalent to the impairment of a person who is two times over the legal limit for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A DUIE is a traffic infraction, not a criminal law violation like a DUI. However, distracted driving can turn into a criminal offense if the driver’s inattention causes an accident or a fatality. A person can be charged with reckless driving,vehicular assault, and even vehicular homicide for carelessly driving a car that is involved in an accident. The new law permits hands-free calling but prohibits a driver from holding a cell phone while accessing, composing, or VIEWING data on their phone including messages or pictures.

Essentially, there is no hand-held cell phone use while driving.
* Even when stopped in traffic or at traffic lights
* Includes all electronic devices even tablets, laptops and video games
* No typing messages or accessing information
* No watching videos or using cameras

You CAN USE YOUR DEVICE if you are:
* Hands-free and can start use by a single touch or swipe of your finger
* Parked or out-of-the-flow of traffic
* Contacting emergency vehicles

A traffic citation cost $136, will be reported to the department of licensing, and can impact your insurance rates.

The Lawsuit Against Purdue Pharma

The City of Everett received national attention after they filed a lawsuit against a pharmaceutical company for recklessly supplying OxyContin to drug traffickers in order to maximize the company’s profits. Everett has been swept by a wave of overdoses, crimes, and homelessness as a result of opioid addiction. This epidemic impacts every corner of our society. Hopefully, the city can put the money into more rehabilitation programs if they win the suit.

http://www.heraldnet.com/news/nbc-reports-on-city-of-everett-lawsuit-against-purdue-pharma/

The funding could increase enrollment in Drug Court and provide other alternatives to confinement including treatment for addicts committing non-violent offenses. Currently, the Snohomish County Superior Court has several alternative programs available to people who are charged with drug possession. I had a client tell me one program was a life-changing event but it was not easy and required many hours of hard work each month.

The Adult Drug Treatment Court (ADTC) is a therapeutic court, which handles cases involving addicted offenders through supervision and treatment. Drug Court program participants are usually involved in an intensive out-patient treatment program where they initially attend meetings three times a week. The meetings taper off as a person moves into a different phase of the program. Drug Court members must also attend a minimum of three sober support meetings and be prepared to provide a random urine sample for drug testing.

Additionally, members are required to obtain employment and receive a GED in order to graduate from the drug court program. They are required to partake in Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT). MRT is a structured program that focuses on changing your thinking and behaviors that lead to problems of drug use, relationship difficulties, and negative lifestyles. Members are not permitted to visit bars, hookah shops, adult entertainment venues, and casinos. They authorize the drug court team to enter their residence to verify a sober lifestyle.

The drug court team includes a Superior Court Judge, a prosecutor, a public defender, treatment professionals and law enforcement. Their goal is to facilitate and monitor a person’s progression in the program. They meet in Court for group sessions and will ask about a person’s successes or struggles with the requirements. Sanctions for a violation include reprimands, jail, additional treatment, or termination from the program and sentencing on the underlying felony offense. They have a high failure rate and only truly motivated individuals will graduate from the program. Participants make a sacrifice but those who graduate are eternally grateful and will have a new outlook on life without a felony conviction on their record.

Please contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who knows your options and eligibility to get into drug court, TAP, or request a first time offender waiver (FTOW), or reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor. You should understand these terms before your case is resolved. Know your rights and what the best option is for you.