New Bill Would Make 4th Offense DUI a Felony

Washington state lawmakers are revisiting an idea to make a driver’s fourth drunken-driving conviction within 10 years a felony.

Under current Washington law, a felony DUI charge applies only if a driver already has been convicted of DUI four times in the previous decade. That’s the highest threshold among the 45 states that have laws to make repeat DUI offenders felons, said the bill’s author, Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Padden first proposed the idea last year but said that bill failed because of concerns over the expense of imprisoning more drunken drivers for felony convictions. He said Wednesday he believes this year’s bill has a better chance because a handful of Senate Democrats have signed on as co-sponsors. The measure also has support from Padden’s Republican colleagues.

He said several victims of car crashes caused by repeat DUI offenders are scheduled to speak at a public hearing Thursday. Senate Bill 5105 will be before the Senate Law and Justice Committee, of which Padden is the chairman.

Capitol lawmakers have contemplated lowering Washington’s threshold for felony DUI from the fifth offense to the fourth offense since 2013, upon the recommendation of a work group created by Gov. Jay Inslee to toughen impaired-driving laws after a series of fatal wrecks.

Padden said he hopes the cost obstacle can be overcome this year to bring Washington’s DUI law closer to those in neighboring states. Both Oregon and Idaho have laws to make a driver’s third DUI within a decade a felony.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

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Bill Would Toss Past Marijuana Convictions

Lawmakers on Friday considered whether adults will be able to have misdemeanor convictions for marijuana possession thrown out if they were over 21 at the time of the offense.

The House’s Public Safety Committee began weighing a bill by Democratic legislators that would allow misdemeanor convictions for possessing 40 grams or less of marijuana to be set aside and dismissed. If it passes, the process to clear records would be different from the way other misdemeanors are expunged. Unlike those cases, a marijuana offender wouldn’t have to wait three years after completing the sentence to get the conviction wiped off the record.

The bill would erase past criminal convictions for possession of small amounts of marijuana. Voters passed Initiative 502 in 2012, which legalized the sale and recreational use of pot in Washington state.

“The voters spoke,” Thurston County public defender Alex Frix told the panel Friday. “It is patently unfair to continue to punish people with the stain of a conviction for possessing a now-legal substance, period.”

The committee had no questions for Frix, who was the only speaker on the bill. An identical bill introduced in 2013 never made it to the House floor for a vote.

At the same hearing, another bill by Democratic legislators to lessen the penalty for possession of small amounts of all drugs and make possession charges misdemeanors also received some discussion, but even one of that bill’s sponsors took a pessimistic view of its chances.

“We probably won’t get it through this year,” said Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo. “You know, we’re planting the seeds.”

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer. 

Washington and Colorado Share Legal Weed Lessons

Don’t worry about a federal lawsuit. But do worry about tax rates. Those are among the many lessons Colorado and Washington have to share from the front lines of America’s marijuana experiment.

LESSON ONE: DON’T BE TIMID

Public officials in the pioneering marijuana states were flat-footed when voters made pot legal.

At first waiting for a possible federal lawsuit, then trying to figure out how to monitor and tax a product that had never been fully regulated anywhere in the world, the states spent many months coming up with rules for how the drug should be grown, sold and consumed.

The delays were understandable. But they led to one of the biggest disappointments of the marijuana markets – lower-than-hoped tax collections.

LESSON TWO: DON’T GET TOO EXCITED, EITHER

Both Colorado and Washington have seen tax collections fall below some rosy projections. The effective tax rates are about 44 percent in Washington and 29 percent in Colorado, with plenty of asterisks and local variances.

The states assumed that pot users would pay a steep premium to stop using drug dealers and have clean, safe stores in which to buy their weed. But the tax rates have led to a continuing black market, undercutting the top argument for legalizing in the first place.

Months of delays for permitting and licensing meant that potential pot taxes went uncollected. And limited marijuana supply in both states has further driven up the price of legal weed.

LESSON THREE: THINK OUTSIDE THE BONG

Pot users these days aren’t using the drug the same way hippies in the 1960s did. But Colorado and Washington weren’t entirely prepared to deal with popular new forms of edible and concentrated weed.

It took more than 18 months for Washington to begin sales of edible pot.

Colorado had regulations for edible pot already in place from the medical market – but it stumbled, too, when the edibles proved a lot more popular than officials expected and many first-timers weren’t sure how much to eat.

Colorado has had to go back after the fact to tighten rules on edible pot packaging and dosing.

LESSON FOUR: THINK ABOUT THE KIDS

It’s an obvious consequence of legalization – wider availability for adults means easier access for kids.

School districts in both Colorado and Washington have reported more kids showing up at school with weed. There have been more kids treated at emergency room for marijuana ingestions, too.

Marijuana exposure isn’t fatal, but the experience so far in both states underscores the need for states to have plans for talking with minors about pot.

LESSON FIVE: THE THIN GREEN LINE

Law enforcement has a big role in reducing potential public safety effects of legalization.

States that legalize pot need a plan in place for how officers determine whether drivers are impaired by marijuana. After legalization, simply sniffing pot in a car or seeing a joint on the seat isn’t enough to haul someone to jail.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a DUI, immediately contact a Seattle DUI attorney. A DUI lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle DUI lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce those penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their DUI charge. So it should go without saying that someone cited for DUI should hire a qualified Seattle DUI lawyer as soon as possible. Driving Under the Influence charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with DUI in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle DUI lawyer.