New portal to reimburse fines of overturned WA drug cases

Jun 15, 2023, 6:19 AM | Updated: 10:17 am

overturned Washington drug cases...

The portal aims to make it easier for people to get the money they’re owed in the wake of the 2021 Blake decision (KIRO 7)

(KIRO 7)

Washington state will launch an online portal for fines paid in overturned drug cases starting next month.

The new website, called the “Blake Refund Bureau,” aims to make it easier for people to get the money they’re owed in the wake of the 2021 Blake decision.

Ex-Sheriff on failed Seattle drug ordinance: ‘Look at what this city has become’

In 2021, Washington state’s Supreme Court struck down Washington’s drug possession law through the State v. Blake case, which made simple drug possession a felony. The court ruled the law unconstitutional because it did not require proof to charge people with drugs in their possession, including charges against people who were unknowingly possessing illegal substances.

Now those that were convicted under this unconstitutional law are eligible for the charges to be cleared from their criminal record and can get their legal fees reimbursed.

The website will be run by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), along with local courts, county clerks, public defenders, prosecutors, impacted individuals, advocacy groups, and other stakeholders.

“The intent is to have a process that is easy to navigate and will provide for a timely response for individuals to receive their refunds,” said AOC Blake Implementation Manager Sharon Swanson. “The public will be able to search for their cases by their name or case number.”

According to the Washington State Patrol, there have been over 262,000 convictions for felony drug possession since 1971, and of those, about 150,000 people could be owed money when their convictions are vacated. To clear charges, the state Legislature approved $47 million for the efforts of vacating hundreds of thousands of possession charges and has set aside $50 million for reimbursement.

“The Administrative Office of the Courts is dedicated to working with our justice partners to help inform the vast and diverse Blake-impacted population across Washington State about the potentially life-changing relief opportunities now available to them — collectively working to foster fresh starts and make people whole again,” Washington State Court Administrator Dawn Marie Rubio said.

The portal will launch in July.

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New portal to reimburse fines of overturned WA drug cases