Drug crimes can result in severe penalties in Washington State. Before pleading guilty to a drug offense, consult a Washington criminal defense attorney. There could be one or more defenses to the drug crimes you are facing. In some cases, you may be able to get the drug charges reduced to a lesser charge.
Drug Offenses in Washington State
Drug crimes may be charged as felonies or misdemeanors under the Washington Controlled Substances Act. There are several drug crimes that you could be charged with, including:
- Possession of a controlled substance
- Possession with intent to distribute
- Delivery of a controlled substance
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Drug manufacturing
- Drug sales
The penalty for a drug conviction depends on several factors. The type of drug involved and the amount of drug the person has in their possession are significant factors in the charge. In addition, the person’s criminal record, whether they had a weapon, and the location of the crime can also influence the type of drug charge.
Felony drug charges carry the most severe penalties. Even though adults 21 and older can possess up to an ounce of marijuana under Initiative 502, possession of anything over an ounce of marijuana is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison. However, misdemeanor drug charges in Washington can also result in jail time and significant fines.
State vs. Blake – Impact of Washington Supreme Court Case Ruling Simple Possession Statute Unconstitutional
On February 25, 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that RCW §69.50.4013(1) was unconstitutional in the case of State vs. Blake. Under the statute, simple possession of a controlled substance was illegal. However, the statute did not require the person to “knowingly” possess the drugs to be convicted of the crime.
In Blake, the court concluded that the statute criminalized someone who could have innocently or unknowingly been in possession of a controlled substance. Therefore, because the statute did not require the State to prove knowledge, it was unconstitutional.
The Washington legislature has since passed a revised statute that includes language to correct the issue and recriminalize drug possession. However, a person must be diverted to services at least twice before being charged with a crime. The changes are only effective until July 1, 2023, unless the legislature or voters change the law again.
What impact does the decision in State vs. Blake have on individuals charged or convicted for possession of a controlled substance?
First, it is essential to note that the decision applies only to cases involving simple possession of a controlled substance. Therefore, your charges should be dismissed if you were charged with simple possession of any controlled substance.
If you were ever convicted of simple possession under this statute for simple possession, you are entitled to have your drug conviction vacated. You would not have to comply with any conditions of your sentence. In addition, you could be entitled to reimbursement of fines you paid and, if you were convicted of felony simple possession of a controlled substance, you are entitled to have your legal rights restored.
Even though the court ruled that the simple possession portion of the statute was unconstitutional, it does not mean that your drug charges are automatically dismissed or a conviction is vacated. Instead, you must file the appropriate paperwork to have the charges vacated or dismissed.
Defending Drug Charges in Washington
The best possible outcome of a drug case is the dismissal of the drug charges. Several defenses could result in a dismissal, including:
- Your rights were violated by an illegal search and seizure, resulting in the evidence being inadmissible
- The police officers did not have probable cause to stop you or search your vehicle or person
- You were part of an illegal sting operation by law enforcement officers
- The drugs are not yours, and you had no knowledge of the drugs or knew you had the drugs
- The prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove the legal elements of the crime
If you cannot have the drug charges dropped, there could be a chance to have them reduced to a lesser charge. However, that depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. In the alternative, your attorney may be able to work out a plea agreement that would avoid jail time.
For example, the diversion program may result in the drug charges being dropped if you complete your supervision while in the community. Alternatively, you may be able to enter the First Time Offender Waiver Program. Under this program, you can attend drug treatment therapy and complete community service instead of serving time in jail.
The judge may order probation instead of sentencing you to jail in some cases. The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative is another program that can reduce jail time for a drug offense.
The best way to fight drug charges in Washington is to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible after an arrest. Your lawyer determines the best strategy based on the facts of your case to get your drug charges reduced or dismissed. If not, your attorney works to get the least severe sentence possible for a drug conviction.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a Washington Criminal Defense Attorney
A drug charge can result in long-term consequences for your career, finances, and personal life. Contact Jennifer today to discuss your case and learn how she can help you fight drug charges.
DISCLAIMER: This post is intended to share my perspective, insights and some general information on various aspects of criminal cases. It is not legal advice and is not intended to substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney to obtain legal advice for your individual situation and case.