On June 22, 2020 the Seattle City Council unanimously voted to strike its loitering laws for prostitution and drug use. The move was an intentional step away from a criminal justice approach to deal with the problem of drug use and prostitution in Seattle. The criminal defense bar wants an even greater move, however. It wants most misdemeanors (i.e. DWLS3, Hit and Run Unattended, and Criminal Trespass 2nd Degree) decriminalized by the City Council. The defense bar wants the funds used to process these minor violations put back into the community, not used on prosecution.
The proverbial ball is now in Mayor Jenny Durkan’s court. She has to sign the legislation. The question, of course, is will she? Moreover, was the City Council’s vote simply a bit of form over substance? After all, with the exception of one case filed this year, the Seattle City Attorney hasn’t filed a drug traffic or prostitution loitering charge since 2018. That is right, one case in a period of two years. So, is the City Council simply trying to make a proverbial mountain out of a mole hill? Some may say, ‘yes’. The original elimination of these types of charges was grounded in the work that had been done by the Seattle Reentry Workgroup (a group of experts and people with experience in the criminal justice system that is tasked with examining how Seattle can better support people exiting the criminal justice system and assimilate back into the community). So why was it necessary for the City Council to vote to strike these laws? Why is it necessary for Mayor Durkan to sign the legislation? And why was it necessary for the City Attorney to ‘celebrate’ the legislation? Is it all a political game? Some may say, ‘yes’. Others say it has been a long time coming, and that even more needs to be done to quash the inequities within our city.
In the current climate, it is likely that more will in fact be done. The calls for justice (without the use of, or reliance on, a criminal justice system) are loud and clear. Time will tell how things ultimately play out. Until then – although drug and prostitution loitering cases may not be filling the court’s docket – other minor misdemeanor cases will. So those who are charged with crimes like theft and Hit and Run of an Unattended Vehicle are best served by getting legal help to protect themselves.
If you or a loved one is facing a criminal charge (a misdemeanor in Seattle or otherwise) don’t hesitate to hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Defense Lawyer. The Seattle Criminal Defense Attorneys that make up the criminal defense team of SQ Attorneys are highly qualified and reputable Seattle criminal attorneys that are dedicated to providing top notch, aggressive representation for those arrested or charged for crime all across Western Washington and the Greater Puget Sound region. The team creates success by working with law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office to ensure that all facts and circumstances related to the allegations are considered in creating the fairest, most equitable and just resolution possible in light of all the surrounding circumstances of the given case. So, whether you are cited with an infraction or arrested and/or charged with misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or a felony, protect yourself … call SQ Attorneys at (206) 441-0900.