Rantz: WA Supreme Court legalized drugs, violent criminals will be released early

Feb 25, 2021, 8:31 PM | Updated: Feb 26, 2021, 5:31 am

The Washington State Supreme Court effectively legalized drugs in a stunning and dangerous decision. Thousands of violent felons, like child rapists, could be released as a result.

The misguided court’s split ruling declares the state’s felony drug possession law is unconstitutional. Consequently, police departments across the state, including in Seattle and Tacoma, will no longer arrest individuals for simple drug possession.

The court’s claim makes little sense. It’s driven by ideology. And the only way to correct this egregious ruling is through the Legislature. But state Democrats were already actively pursuing drug legalization, making a fix unlikely.

Drugs were legalized in Washington

The state Supreme Court argued that the mere act of finding an illicit substance on someone’s person or on their property is not enough to prove they had any intent to possess those drugs. In other words, they could unknowingly be in possession of heroin or cocaine and they shouldn’t have to prove to the court that they are innocent. We can pretend this frequently happens, I guess.

As such, RCW 69.50.4013 Section 1 “violates the due process clauses of the state and federal constitutions and is void.” But without this statute, simple possession of a drug cannot be prosecuted.

Caught with an alarming amount of heroin that you’re likely selling? And this wasn’t your first time? Just claim you didn’t know you had it. The Supreme Court thinks it’s reasonable to assume the person didn’t know they were in possession.

One wonders if this ridiculous standard would apply to carrying an illegal gun or having child pornography on your laptop. The court’s twisted logic suggests merely claiming you didn’t know you had it should give you a pass.

The Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys emailed county attorneys who advise law enforcement. They told them to warn law enforcement agencies that “police officers must immediately stop making arrests or issuing citations for simple possession of drugs. No search warrants. No detentions upon suspicion of simple possession awaiting canine units, etc.”

“[The Washington Supreme Court] basically created new constitutional doctrine in order to strike down the statute, instead of just reading a requirement of intent into the statute,” former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna told the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH.

Justices Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary Yu, Raquel Montoya-Lewis, G. Helen Whitener, and Chief Justice Steven Gonzalez are responsible for this ruling. These are all elected positions.

Violent criminals will likely be released early now

Charges of simple possession aren’t always just about simple possession. It’s a way to get dangerous criminals off the streets via an easily provable offense.

Oftentimes, serious criminals cover their tracks well — a drug operation, for example, where law enforcement knows they’re acting illegally, but are struggling to find witnesses willing to testify or direct evidence tying the suspect to the crime. But they could be caught with enough drugs on their person that it could be charged, taking a dangerous criminal off the streets.

What’s worse, this ruling impacts criminals that don’t immediately come to mind.

When a judge sentences a criminal, the time served is based on a number of issues, including past crimes. This decision is retroactive and will mean thousands of cases have to be resentenced. If a child rapist earned extra time because of prior drug possession charges, that extra time is gone and would result in a quicker release. That’s justice served?

There’s little to be done

This ruling even alarms King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. He rarely prosecutes drug possession cases, yet he’s asking the Legislature to “act with a sense of urgency to add the necessary elements to make this statute constitutional this session, and not leave a defective statute on the books.”

Why the concern? The statute the court is pretending is unconstitutional can be used to prosecute drug dealers and prolific offenders. Satterberg’s office often downgrades drug crimes, like dealing, to simple possession. Are you connecting the dots yet?

The only way to fix the mess this ruling caused — a position the five Justices took knowing its implications — is indeed through the Legislature. That won’t happen.

Washington Democrats were already in the process of passing The Pathways to Recovery Act, which would legalize personal possession of all drugs, regardless of intent. It was pitched as a way to help addicts, though it would just lead to their overdose deaths. It seems unlikely the state Legislature, under radical Democrat control, will act.

“I wouldn’t count on the Legislature riding to the rescue here,” McKenna said.

WA Supreme Court was political

It’s clear the state Supreme Court took this issue on via a social justice lens, not a legal one.

“And drug offenders in particular are subject to countless harsh collateral consequences affecting all aspects of their lives,” they write. Indeed they are. Penalties are used to serve as a disincentive to commit acts society deems harmful.

You know who are also “subject to countless harsh collateral consequences affecting all aspects of their lives”? Murderers. Is a murderer the same as a drug user? No — but the logic the court uses isn’t all that complex. It’s shockingly simple-minded.

Though it is worth noting that because of this ruling, there will be more drug users falling deeper into their addiction. The deeper the addiction, the more erratic their behavior. That doesn’t just impact the individual. It impacts us all.

Activists and media giddy

Activist groups and progressive media voices are, of course, giddy.

If you read left-wing Seattle Times reporter Mike Carter’s celebratory framing of this story, you’d hardly know the implications of this ruling. It manages to leave out voices sounding the alarms. It offers positive interviews from two attorneys, but no voices expressing concern.

“The court correctly recognized the injustice of convicting people for innocent conduct,” Richard Lechich, Washington Appellate Project, told the Seattle Times. “While the decision cannot rectify the harm this law caused to so many communities, particularly communities of color, it at least puts an end to it.”

Oh yes. Let us pretend we have punished countless people for unknowingly possessing illicit drugs. Who among us hasn’t reached into our pockets, found an eight ball, then wondered how it got there?

Listen to the Jason Rantz Show weekday afternoons from 3-6 p.m. on KTTH 770 AM (or HD Radio 97.3 FM HD-Channel 3). Subscribe to the podcast here. Follow @JasonRantz on Twitter, Instagram, and Parler and like me on Facebook

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Rantz: WA Supreme Court legalized drugs, violent criminals will be released early