Salomon bill would provide permanent solution to Blake drug ruling

Friday, February 18, 2022

Sen. Jesse Salomon D-Shoreline
Legislation introduced by Sen. Jesse Salomon (D-Shoreline) would establish a civil, non-criminal process for intervening and providing treatment for people found to possess illegal drugs while creating a higher level of accountability for behaviors like using drugs in public.

Senate Bill 5976 would address the legal crisis created in 2021 when the state Supreme Court totally invalidated the law prohibiting illegal drug possession in State v. Blake. 

A temporary legislative fix in response to the ruling (SB 5476) reduced the penalty for possession to a simple misdemeanor and required two free passes against court involvement as long as that person is given information on how to get treatment. 

This law expires in 2023. Salomon’s bill would put in place a permanent process that specifically requires treatment when medically indicated and mandates court oversight to ensure the process is completed.

“Drug use in public is rampant, and police have told me they do not have the ability to stop this,” Salomon said. 
“We need a law that gives them a tool to stop public drug use without relying on the criminal law as the only tool in our toolbox. We need new ideas for accountability that address the treatment needs of substance-addicted people while ensuring accountability for behavior that endangers people.”

Under Salomon’s legislation, someone caught with illegal drugs would undergo a substance use disorder evaluation and, if warranted, complete a treatment plan. A court would monitor compliance and could impose penalties up to and including short stays in jail for non-compliance. 

The jail time would be for civil contempt of court and would not appear as a criminal conviction on the subject’s record, ensuring a non-criminal process that provides more accountability than the misdemeanor criminal charge available now.

“This bill won’t pass this year, but we need to start the discussion now if we want to have a viable system in place when the Legislature’s temporary response to the Supreme Court decision sunsets,” Salomon said. 
“There is no path forward at this point to just re-write the old statute to just straight re-criminalize drug possession.

In his 15 years practicing criminal law, Salomon said he repeatedly saw how misdemeanors merely placed a conviction on someone’s record but did not result in completed treatment.

“The only thing that does is make it hard for someone to get a job if they do try to change their lives for the better,” Salomon said. 
“This bill starts a discussion that will be neither simple nor easy and will take considerable effort and time to get right. That’s why we need to start now.”

After a person goes through this process twice, prosecutors would have the option of filing criminal charges for third and subsequent violations if they deem that someone violating drug laws would be unlikely to succeed in a third course of court-ordered treatment. 

Violators would be liable for the cost of assessment and treatment unless found indigent and without third-party insurance, in which case the state would pay the cost.


Post a Comment

We encourage the thoughtful sharing of information and ideas. We expect comments to be civil and respectful, with no personal attacks or offensive language. We reserve the right to delete any comment.
Facebook: Shoreline Area News
Twitter: @ShorelineArea
Daily Email edition (don't forget to respond to the email)

  © Blogger template The Professional Template II by 2009

Back to TOP