Seattle City Council Considering a Law that Would Dismiss Many Misdemeanor Crimes Due to Substance Abuse, Mental Illness, or Poverty

The City Council of Seattle is thinking about passing new legislation that creates a legal loophole making substance abuse, mental illness, or poverty valid means of legal defense for most misdemeanor crimes. The proposal is being included in the municipal budgeting process and has had nearly 0 public discussion. Currently, there haven’t been any hearings to discuss the proposed legislation.

Scott Lindsay is a former public safety advisor for Seattle and he thinks that this new legislation would be disastrous and would put citizens in harms way. He said he hasn’t seen any legislation remotely close to this anywhere in the country or in the world. He said, “All cities have criminal codes to protect their citizens from criminal acts. This would essentially create a legal loophole that swallows all those codes and creates a green light for crime.”

Lisa Herbold is the councilwoman who proposed the legislation. If passed, the new law would allow “crimes of poverty” to be dismissed and will redefine duress to be used in a defense against prosecution. 5400 misdemeanor cases were filed in 2019 that weren’t related to DUI charges or domestic abuse accusations.

If passed, these new laws are basically legalizing crime because the charges could be dismissed on the grounds of a defendant 1) showing symptoms of addiction without being required to provide a medical diagnosis, 2) showing symptoms of a mental disorder, or 3) being in poverty and the crime was committed to meet an “immediate and basic need” such as stealing merchandise to sell and then pay for food, rent, or clothing. If any of those “qualifications” are met, the offender will not be convicted and the charges will be dropped, case dismissed.

Lindsay warned, “If you don’t feel very protected right now, this would wipe out almost all remaining protections that we have. This would absolutely open the floodgates for crime in Seattle, even worse than what we often currently struggle with. It’s basically a blank check for anybody committing theft, assault, harassment (and) trespass to continue without disruption from our criminal justice system.”

Nearly all offenses below the level of a felony, DUI charges, or domestic violence could be excused under this proposed law if the “conditions” stated above are met.

Sources: KOMO News, News Break; Photo-Mynorthwest.com

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