In Washington State, drugs are one of the most common reasons for which people are arrested and convicted. While this often relates to high-level activities with manufacturing, trafficking and distribution, those who have a small amount in their possession were also vulnerable to harsh penalties. These convictions can have a far-ranging effect on a person’s life not just by taking away their freedom through incarceration, but by hindering them in their pursuit of education, employment and more. A recent decision by the Washington Supreme Court may give relief to those whose crime was simple drug possession. When seeking post-conviction relief or appealing a conviction, having guidance is often imperative.
Supreme Court strikes down part of drug law
The state Supreme Court issued a decision in February that changed the drug law. It removed simple drug possession as a criminal act, opening the door for many people who were dealing with this issue to potentially benefit. Gov. Jay Inslee commuted the sentences of 13 people who were incarcerated based on this law. Others are petitioning with the governor to receive commutations of their own and be set free. The key to the court’s decision was that the law violated the constitution as prosecutors were not required to show that the person knew he or she had the illegal drugs or possessed them intentionally. Experts in the field think that there could be a massive number of convictions vacated and sentences reduced due to this fundamental change.
Understanding the process for post-conviction relief
If a person is convicted and incarcerated, it can be a difficult transition. This is especially true if the crime was for simple drug possession. In many instances, the person claims to have been unaware of having the drug at all. Frequently, law enforcement might scoff at such a claim and the courts may be unsympathetic without valid proof. Prosecutors are seeking convictions for the cases they bring and will do whatever they can to secure it. This combination may result in problems with the case. If appeals fail, assessing the law and seeking post-conviction relief may be effective whether it is due to a changed law or for other reasons.
Professional representation can assist with post-conviction relief
Appeals and post-conviction relief can be life-changing for people who were dealing with the aftermath of a crime. With this recent ruling and the steps the state is taking to adhere to the new law, those who think their case can be positively impacted should understand their rights. Consulting with experienced professionals who know how to navigate the complex system of appeals and post-conviction cases may be able to help.