Budgetary Hogwash

An interesting article in the Seattle Times today claimed that Washington State’s 39 counties are draining their budgets by fighting crime and keeping their communities clean. See ‘Washington counties struggling with criminal-justice costs’ (hereinafter, the ‘Article’). According to the Article, counties spend about $120 million annually just to cover the cost of indigent defense in Felony matters. The Article waxes on about ways the counties try to get creative on stretching their crime enforcement budgets, and claims that a big concern is not centered on ‘lightening strike’ cases, but, on the whole, the overall structural pressures criminal justice budgets face. The Article says the counties claim that many ‘decisions’ are being based on available resources and their allocation, and whether criminal charges should even be filed regardless of the legitimacy of the allegations.

What is concerning about the Article is that regardless of all of the pontificating on how to solve the problem, many charges like DUI (which have a legitimate built in legislative structure to deal with reduction of charges and punishment … and hence the reduction of costs and overruns) have been largely ignored … at least in King County. Most, if not all, King County DUI cases that several years ago would have been easily and quickly resolved are now bogged down in our legal system, undoubtedly costing tax payers voluminous amounts of money due to the overarching change in the negotiating policy by the King County Prosecutor’s Office (which, of course, has been denied by the KCPO, but is certainly evident in application). Cases that just two years ago would have been resolved in two or three hearings now can take up to a year or more to resolve. These cases now involve numerous hearings, month after month. Law enforcement personnel’s’ time in court via testimonial hearings has increased tenfold, and many officers are required to return to court over and over again without testifying because of court congestion. In short, the dockets in district court have sky rocketed in motion hearing and jury trial volume. As a direct result, monies paid to jurors, court staff and law enforcement personnel most certainly have also increased.

It is one thing to be tough on crime, but to claim out one side of your mouth that the budget is tight and bankruptcy is near, and then out the other side of your mouth deny any culpability for the problem created is somewhat shameful and certainly disingenuous. The legislature has provided a means to soften budgetary concerns, at least as it relates to some misdemeanors and district court matters. If counties such as King County choose to no longer effectively use what the legislature has provided they have no legitimate basis in rhyme or reason to claim they are ‘struggling with criminal justice costs’, and they most certainly should not be entitled to any reimbursement by way of a petition to the state for help to pay for police, lawyers, court personnel and other ancillary costs. Managing a budget is part of the job and tax payers expect, or otherwise demand, that our governing bodies to do it effectively.

Now, more than ever, if you are cited for DUI in Washington state it is smart to immediately seek the assistance of a Seattle DUI lawyer. A qualified and respected Seattle DUI attorney, among other things, can quite possibly save a person thousands of dollars in court and insurance fees, extent of loss of privilege to drive and amount of jail time to be served. Washington DUI laws are far too complicated for any ol’ attorney to handle. Be smart … hire a qualified and skilled Seattle DUI attorney when arrested for DUI in Washington State.

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