Wiping the slate
City officials asked the court to consider clearing more than 200 outstanding warrants for people charged with or convicted of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, some of which are as much as two decades old.
The goal, according to the press release, is to simultaneously address inequities in Seattle’s criminal justice system and to clear the docket for police officers to focus on more serious offenses.
The majority of the warrants under consideration involve prostitution and driving with a suspended license in the third degree (DWLS3), colloquially known as “driving while poor.”
These charges were filed between February 1996 and July 2013.
“If you haven’t re-offended after 5 years of a warrant being issued, I’m comfortable asking the Court to dismiss your warrant,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes in a press release.
The decision to quash the warrants lies with the judges of the Seattle Municipal Court. If they choose to grant the motion, Holmes already has plans to ask for more in 2019: If given the green light, the city attorney’s office will review outstanding misdemeanor warrants older than five years to determine if those should be considered by the court as well.
The move is a matter of equity, as the criminal justice system is weighted against low-income people and people of color. Those saddled with a DWLS3 charge often could not pay to close out tickets and also couldn’t afford to stop driving. The city attorney’s office is also working with a local organization called Legacy of Equality, Leadership and Organizing on a prefiling diversion program that would give people ways to avoid the filing of charges in DWLS3 cases.
One step forward
The Seattle hearing examiner upheld the environmental review of an affordable rental and home ownership project slated for the former military base adjacent to Discovery Park.
The development of Fort Lawton has been on the table for more than a decade, but was stalled by a challenge to the environmental review spearheaded by Magnolia resident (and current City Council candidate) Elizabeth Campbell in 2008.
The city eventually circled back and completed a full environmental impact review, a long and expensive process. That too was challenged, with Campbell once again taking the lead. However, the appellants — Campbell and the Discovery Park Community Alliance — did not appear at a second pre-hearing conference nor did they file exhibit or witness lists. That left them with legal arguments that the hearing examiner denied.
Hearing examiner decisions can be appealed to Superior Court.
Ashley Archibald is a Staff Reporter covering local government, policy and equity. Have a story idea? She can be can reached at ashleya (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Ashley on Twitter @AshleyA_RC
Read the full Dec. 5 - Dec. 11 issue.
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