Law

Stories about law and politics in the Pacific Northwest, with many from KPLU's Law and Justice reporter, Paula Wissel.

Mel Evans / AP Photo

If you’re caught with cocaine, meth or heroin, you can be charged with a felony and face up to five years in prison. But there’s a proposal in Washington, prefiled HB 2116, to make possession of hard drugs a misdemeanor if they are for the defendant's personal use. It would also reduce the penalty for the possession of more than 40 grams of cannabis from a felony to a misdemeanor.

LM Otero / AP Photo

Repeat drunk drivers in Washington who get arrested in the new year may find themselves ordered to blow into a breathalyzer twice a day. Starting Jan. 1, three counties and two small cities will begin piloting a 24/7 sobriety program modeled after one in South Dakota.

Isabel Esterman / Flickr

 

After Jan. 1, rioting will still be a crime in Washington, but it will get a new name. And Seahawks fans will have a new way to show their loyalty to the team.

IPNW

After spending more than 10 years in prison on a wrongful conviction, Brandon Olebar of Seattle is home in time for Christmas.

Olebar had been convicted of robbery and burglary in 2003. The conviction was based on an ID by the victim, his sister's boyfriend, two days after the crime. 

But that identification turned out to be a case of "memory transference."

AP Photo

Washington state is looking at a major overhaul of its medical marijuana system, to avoid competition with the recreational market and to avert any crackdowns from the federal government.

The state's Liquor Control Board on Wednesday approved its final recommendations to the Legislature about how it believes the largely unregulated medical system can be brought under the umbrella of Initiative 502.

Gerry Broome / AP Photo

Nearly a decade has passed since Washington state banned smoking in public areas and workplaces. 

But smoking has evolved since, and that leaves health officials with challenges as they try to enforce a law that didn’t foresee the rise of new products.

As Washington moves to legalize recreational pot, the U.S. Department of Justice is prioritizing preventing so-called “leakage” to other states like Oregon and Idaho.

Barcodes will help the state track marijuana from seed to sale. But technology alone won’t keep Washington pot in Washington. And some think the concern about leakage is overblown.

Paula Wissel / KPLU

Human rights advocates rallied in front of the Mexican consulate in Seattle on Tuesday on behalf of a Renton woman being held in a Mexican prison.

Nestora Salgado, who was the commander of a community police force, was arrested in the Mexican state of Guerrero in August and charged with kidnapping. Her family in the Seattle area say the charges are trumped up in retaliation for her efforts to combat corruption in Mexico.

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

The nation's largest freight rail carriers have announced they will provide health benefits to the same-sex spouses of their employees, one day after legally married, gay engineers filed a federal lawsuit in Seattle.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for BNSF Railway Co., read the statement from the National Railway Labor Conference to The Associated Press on Wednesday. The conference represents the railroad companies in dealings with labor groups.

A federal judge has ruled that two Washington cities have systematically violated the rights of poor defendants to have legal representation.

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union sued Mount Vernon and Burlington two years ago, alleging that public defenders there were so overworked that they amounted to little more than "a warm body with a law degree."

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

Two workers are suing BNSF, one of the nation's largest rail companies, saying their same-sex spouses have repeatedly been denied health benefits even though gay marriage is legal in Washington state.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Seattle states BNSF refused to add the spouses of locomotive engineer Michael Hall and conductor Amie Garrand to their plans.

Peace Corps

The King County sheriff wants to make his police force more culturally aware. So he’s come up with a plan that includes putting former Peace Corps volunteers on the payroll.

Sheriff John Urquhart says the force is “becoming more male and more white every single year," and that's a problem because the force should better reflect the increasingly diverse community.

"And that means we need all colors, we need all races, we need all genders, and we need LGBT, you name it,” Urquhart said.

Associated Press

New figures from the Washington State Patrol show that more drivers have tested positive for marijuana since the state legalized the drug last year.

In the first six months of 2013, the patrol's crime lab says, 745 people tested positive for marijuana. Typically there are about 1,000 positive pot tests on drivers in a full year.

Austin Jenkins

The 30-day window for marijuana business licenses applications has opened in Washington. Would-be growers, processors and retailers applied online and in-person Monday.

At the Department of Revenue business licensing office, the flow of in-person applicants was more of a trickle, not a torrent on this historic day.

“This is absolutely amazing,” said Jeff Gilmore, who was among the first to apply for a license to grow legal pot after a career of growing illegally. “The state of Washington took two years of my life for growing marijuana two decades ago.”

Associated Press

Pot entrepreneurs in Washington can apply for a business license beginning Monday, Nov. 18. The state now has a team of 14 license investigators ready to vet the applicants.

Becky Smith with the Washington Liquor Control Board says investigators will be sleuthing for hidden owners and out-of-state financial backers, as well as other violations of the rules.

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