Supreme Court Drug Ruling A Seismic Level Event For Prosecutors
Yesterday, in a 5 to4 decision, the Washington Supreme Court ruled the state’s drug possession law unconstitutional in what Yakima County Prosecutor Joe Brusic calls a "seismic level event" for law enforcement and County prosecutors across the state. The slim majority ruled that the law improperly allowed a defendant to be prosecuted if found in possession, even if they didn't know they possessed drugs.
Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud wrote in the majority opinion. “Attaching the harsh penalties of felony conviction, lengthy imprisonment, stigma and the many collateral consequences that accompany every felony drug conviction to entirely innocent and passive conduct exceeds the legislature’s powers,”
It's the "knowingly" part that is the problem. I'm not sure how it is you wind up in possession of illegal drugs "unknowingly" or how often that even happens but the court says it happens and could happen again and because of that, the entire possession law has to be thrown out and more than that, all past cases of possession have to be reviewed and made right under the new ruling.
Apparently all other state and federal drug possession laws say that the prosecuting team must prove that the defendant in drug possession cases “knowingly and intentionally” had the drugs on their person - and that's the part Washington didn't have even though the legislature created a " I didn't know" defense in 1981. The court felt that wasn't enough.