Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently signed a measure that significantly changes the state’s approach to drug possession. The Gov. signed the law after the Washington Supreme Court struck down Washington’s previous possession law as unconstitutional. If you have been charged with a drug crime, it is critical to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney now.

What is the New Law?

Washington law now states that the possession of a controlled substance is a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail. Examples of a controlled substance include:

  • Cocaine,
  • Heroin, and
  • Methamphetamine

The state’s previous law on the matter said that the crime of possession was a felony offense.

Under the new law, police also divert a party’s first two possession crimes to drug treatment rather than sending the cases to a prosecutor. If a defendant’s case does reach a prosecutor, then the prosecutor can divert the matter as well.

Washington’s new drug possession law expires in two years. Upon expiration, the law reverts to the state’s prior law. The purpose of this provision is to give lawmakers time to re-evaluate how the new policy is working. It also gives lawmakers the opportunity to decide on a long-term drug policy.

The new measure was signed into law after the state’s prior possession law was declared unconstitutional by the Washington Supreme Court. The court made its ruling after finding that the old law did not require a prosecutor to prove that a defendant knowingly possessed a drug. According to the facts of the case, a Spokane woman was found guilty of drug possession after she received a pair of jeans from a friend that had a small bag of methamphetamine in a pocket.

What is the Reasoning for the New Law?

Prior to signing the new bill, Gov. Inslee said that the law will “help reduce the disparate impact of the previous drug possession statute on people of color.” He also stated that the new measure “moves the system from responding to possession as a felony to focusing on the behavioral response…” According to Inslee, this “is a much more appropriate and successful way to address the needs that underlie drug abuse.”

Oregon this year became the only other state in the U.S. to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of all types of drugs. The state made the move to focus more on drug treatment as opposed to punishment. Washington’s new law shadows this move. The bill aims to greatly expand treatment services and outreach, including to homeless people with severe behavioral health issues.

Contact Black & Askerov for Help

The attorneys at our firm have over 25 years of combined experience in representing parties accused of drug crimes, including drug possession. They are passionate in their work and tireless in their efforts. No matter if you have been formally charged with a crime, or merely suspected of one, it is critical that you contact them now. Do not damage your freedoms by trying to handle your case alone. Contact Black & Askerov now and get the legal help you deserve.