Law

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

OLYMPIA, Wash. – U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill Wednesday. He will likely get questions about Washington and Colorado’s new marijuana laws. Pressure is mounting on the Obama administration to block the pot legalization measures.

The new push for federal invention comes from a United Nations-based drug agency and nine former DEA chiefs. They say Washington and Colorado's new recreational pot laws violate international treaties.

Elaine Thompson / AP

A U.N.-based drug agency says the legalization of marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado violates international drug treaties.

The International Narcotics Control Board is urging the Obama administration to challenge the legalization measures. It made the appeal in its annual drug report released Tuesday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week that he was in the last stages of reviewing the state laws. Holder said he was examining policy options and international implications of the issue. Marijuana is illegal under federal law.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Efforts to get gun rights leaders in Washington to support -- or at least not oppose -- universal background checks appear to have hit a stumbling block. At issue is a state database that tracks pistol sales. Second Amendment advocates want it shut down, but the state’s sheriffs and police chiefs say it’s a vital law enforcement tool.

Courtesy OneAmerica

Imagine living your life in a legal limbo, with fear of deportation looming and constant uncertainty about your future.

That’s the reality for many immigrants in Washington State. Several dozen of them are boarding a bus that will criss-cross the state this week to tell their stories and demand comprehensive immigration reform. 

Paula Wissel

Should going to prison mean losing your parental rights forever?  Legal advocates say that’s what’s been happening in Washington State, especially to women who are incarcerated.

Legal Voice and other groups are pushing a bill, HB1284, that would give judges more discretion in deciding whether to put children up for adoption when a mother or father is behind bars.

Manuel W. / Flickr

Red jumpsuits might be the usual jail uniform in King County. But a new policy has the jail issuing headscarves and yamulkes to inmates.

Bellamy Pailthorp / KPLU News

Imagine you could predict crime the same way weather forecasters issue storm warnings.  

It’s happening – with new software recently deployed in Seattle and Tacoma. Police precincts in both cities hope it will help them allocate patrols more effectively.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Research shows if you use a tanning bed before the age of 35, you are more likely to get skin cancer. That’s why legislators in Washington, Oregon and Idaho have been considering proposals to bar teenagers from indoor tanning salons. A bill in the Washington legislature to do this has died for the fourth year. But the idea is still alive in Salem and Boise.

Jessica Hewlett is just 22 years old and already a cancer survivor. Last March, her primary doctor sent her to a dermatologist because of a mole on her stomach.

Fate of abortion coverage bill uncertain in Olympia

Feb 25, 2013

OLYMPIA, Wash. − A bill to require insurance companies to offer plans that cover maternity services and abortions passed the Washington House Friday. It is unclear, however, whether the legislation will make it through the Senate’s Republican-majority caucus. Majority Leader Rodney Tom has said he doesn’t want to vote on divisive social issues.

In the House debate, Rep. Laurie Jinkins said this bill would provide options for abortion coverage after the Affordable Care Act is fully implemented.

OLYMPIA, Wash. - What if you could just start your car, tell it where you want to go and then sit back and relax until you get there? Well, Google and many automobile manufacturers are hard at work on self-driving "robocars." Now lawmakers in Salem and Olympia are trying to figure out how to update the rules-of-the-road to keep pace with the cars of the future. But automakers are flashing a stop sign, saying it's too soon for new regulation.

Det. Monty Moss / SPD

Seattle city council members said today they want new laws on the books before police turn on a string of surveillance cameras. The network of 30 or so waterfront cameras is being installed in the name of port security, but citizens say those cameras could also turn around and peek into neighborhoods.

Idaho is now hemmed in by four states where marijuana is legal in some form, and a panel of state lawmakers fears Idaho could be next. A state Senate committee approved a pair of measures against marijuana, including one asking the federal government to crack down on Idaho’s neighbors.

Oregon, Montana and Nevada allow medical marijuana, while Washington legalized it for recreational use.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A proposal to raise Washington’s gas tax by ten cents faces a bumpy road in Olympia. House Democrats rolled out the idea Wednesday as part of a $10 billion transportation funding package, but it faced immediate opposition.

The plan comes from House Transportation Chair Judy Clibborn. It would increase Washington’s gas tax two-cents per gallon per year for five years. House Republicans quickly pointed out that when fully implemented, the state’s fuel excise tax would be 47.5 cents per gallon – higher than any other state today.

The Obama administration on Wednesday released its final rule on essential health benefits, which sets out the coverage insurers must offer starting in 2014.

Insurers must cover 10 broad categories of care, including emergency services, maternity care, hospital and doctors' services, mental health and substance abuse care and prescription drugs.

Maybe you don't like your mobile phone carrier, but you like your phone and you want to keep it but change providers. An obscure change in federal law makes it illegal to switch without permission from your carrier.

If you have, for example, AT&T, in order to switch to T-Mobile you have to unlock the phone, and AT&T can now stop you from doing that.

The change in the copyright law has some people upset, and they're petitioning the White House for a fix.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – A bill to require background checks for private gun sales is one step closer to a final vote. Tuesday, members of a Washington House committee voted seven to six.

Republican Rep. Jay Rodne opposed the bill, saying it would not be enforceable.

“We’re going to drain precious law enforcement resources to policing this measure,” he says.

But, Republican Rep. Mike Hope, a police officer, said this measure could help prevent shootings like what happened in Newtown, Conn.

OLYMPIA, Wash. –Liquor control officers in Washington say they need more authority to combat the black market for booze, cigarettes and, soon, marijuana. State lawmakers on Tuesday will take testimony on a proposal to give full police powers to liquor enforcement officers.

Washington has 56 officers who police the stores and restaurants that sell liquor and tobacco products. Now that private retailers can sell booze, there are nearly three times as many liquor licenses statewide and theft has become a significant problem.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

Civil liberties advocates are raising concerns about a network of 30 surveillance cameras installed along Seattle’s shoreline, purchased with a $5 million dollar federal grant. When the measure first came up in city council last year, Seattle Police Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh said it was all about Port security.  

Seattle's sick leave law is being targeted in by two new bills introduced in the Senate.

The city's law requires businesses with at least five employees operating in Seattle to provide paid sick leave to workers. It took effect in September.

Two bills introduced Tuesday by Senate Republicans would directly impact that law. One would take Seattle's law off the books completely by declaring that the Legislature has the sole responsibility for sick-leave requirements.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Calls to 911 for underage drinkers suffering from alcohol poisoning would not prompt police charges if a bill in Olympia passes. Tuesday, Washington lawmakers heard testimony on a measure that would allow young partiers to get help without penalty.

Currently, teens sent to the hospital after a hard night of drinking could find themselves in trouble with the law. Democratic Rep. Marko Liias said his bill would help young people avoid death by alcohol poisoning.

Gabriel Spitzer / KPLU

It’s always been illegal to drive stoned. But, what that means has changed under Washington’s new marijuana law.

Initiative-502 includes a strict definition of "under the influence" – which some people say is misguided.

From legalizing the industrial production of hemp to establishing a federal tax, an effort is building in Congress to change U.S. marijuana laws.

Democratic Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon tells The Associated Press that lawmakers from both parties have been quietly working on several bills, and he and Colorado Democrat Jared Polis plan to introduce the first two on Tuesday.

Polis' measure would let states legalize pot and require growers to obtain a federal permit, while Blumenauer's would create a federal marijuana excise tax.

As Washington moves to legalize marijuana, there are fresh concerns that a parallel market for pot will continue to flourish. It’s not quite a black market. Let’s call it a “grey” market – for medical marijuana. The question now: how will highly taxed and regulated pot compete with largely unregulated medical marijuana?

RICHLAND, Wash. – The state of Washington’s largest public sector embezzlement case ever moves forward Thursday with a guilty plea. A public works employee admits he took the money over more than 20 years in Franklin County in the southeast part of the state.

Wikimedia Commons

What does it take to make someone a parent in the eyes of the law? And can a child have more than two designated legal parents?  

As families become more complex, those are questions courts in Washington and elsewhere are wrestling with.

Back in 2005,  the Washington State Supreme Court became something of a national leader when it ruled on a case involving a lesbian couple.

The court determined that, after the couple split up, the non biological mother could have full parental rights as a “de facto parent.”

Kelly Gibbs

Billboards depicting the outline of a young girl and a short story about abuse have sprung up across western Washington. Seattle Police Captain Dave Emerick is in charge of the high risk victims unit. He says at any given time, between 300 and 500 young people are being sexually exploited in King County alone. He says the police want to hear from anyone who sees suspicious behavior.

David Snyder / National Park Service

Wanted: A green thumb with extensive knowledge of the black, or at least gray, market.

As Washington state tries to figure out how to regulate its newly legal marijuana, officials are hiring an adviser on all things weed: how it's best grown, tested, labeled, and cooked into brownies.

A federal judge has approved a guilty plea by BP to manslaughter charges in connection with the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

The approved deal includes a record $4 billion in criminal penalties.

Eleven workers on the Deep Water Horizon rig died in the April 2010 explosion. BP pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges for those deaths and to lying to Congress about the amount of the oil spilling out into the Gulf of Mexico.

Joshua Trujillo / AP

Seven hundred and sixteen guns were collected at Saturday’s gun buyback program in Seattle. But officials say they are disturbed by the large number of private gun buyers the event attracted.

Mayor Mike McGinn says he was shocked by what he describes as the “gaggles” of private gun buyers who showed up to tempt people away from the long lines and gift cards and offer them cash for their weapons.

“We had a gun bazaar break out of the streets of Seattle outside of a gun buyback. That was just insane."

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

Seattle’s first effort in 20 years to give people money for turning in guns was so popular on Saturday it ran out of gift cards and had to end early. But even if you were one of the people who didn’t get there early enough, there were lots of opportunities outside the event to get money for your weapons.

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