Social and Economic Policy
The League of Women Voters of Washington recognizes the need for a “criminal justice system that is just, effective, equitable, transparent, and that fosters public trust at all stages, including policing practices, pre-trial procedures, sentencing, incarceration, and re-entry.”
First, the good news. The 2023 legislature passed bills:
However, most of our priority bills did not move forward. These include bills that would have strengthened police accountability, such as HB 1025 (creating a private right of action for people harmed by police), HB 1445 (empowering the Attorney General’s Office to investigate patterns and practices of misconduct in law enforcement agencies) and HB 1579 (creating a statewide independent prosecutor’s office for cases of serious or deadly use of force by police). Instead, the legislature rolled back one of the achievements of the 2021 session by making it easier for law enforcement to conduct vehicle pursuits (SB 5352).
Several sentencing reform bills we advocated for also did not pass, including SB 5434 (raising the age in juvenile court) and SB 5451 (allowing review of long sentences for crimes committed before age 25). While the legislature did pass HB 1324, eliminating the mandatory consideration of juvenile adjudications in adult sentencing calculations, the retroactivity provision was removed from the final version of the bill. As a result, the bill’s goal of addressing the harms caused by decades of racial inequities in sentencing has not been achieved. The legislature also failed to take action on HB 1087, which would have significantly restricted the use of solitary confinement in Washington prisons, to conform with international standards.
All of the bills that didn’t pass this year are still alive for the 2024 session, and we will continue to work hard in the interim and during session to get them passed!
Finally, the legislature was unable to come to an agreement as to the extent to which simple drug possession should be criminalized. A last-ditch effort at a compromise on SB 5536 was voted down by the House on the last day of session. The Governor is expected to call for a special session to resolve this issue; if a bill isn’t passed at the state level, it will be up to local jurisdictions to decide if/how to punish drug possession (up to a gross misdemeanor).
|House Bills||House||Senate||After Passage|
|Bill #||Bill Name (Brief Title)||League Position||Take Action||In Committee||On Floor Calendar||Passed||In Committee||On Floor Calendar||Passed||Passed Legislature||On Governor's Desk||Signed|
|HB 1169||Legal Financial Obligations||Support
|HB 1324||Scoring juvenile offenses.||Support
|HB 1345||Contribution to costs of privileges by people in prison||Support
|HB 1394||Limits on sex offender registry requirements for juveniles||Support
These weekly updates will provide you with a "deep dive" into the progress of each bill, along with more analysis of the potential impact of the bill if it should pass.
SB 5046 Expands Postconviction Access to Counsel. This bill expands the circumstances in which counsel may be appointed at state expense to someone who has been convicted and requires the Office of Public Defense to study the barriers to providing postconviction counsel to indigent people.
SB 5101 Compassionate Release for Incarcerated People. This bill makes it easier to release people in prison who have serious medical conditions and therefore pose a low risk to the community.
SB 5134 Reentry Services for Incarcerated People. This bill requires the Department of Corrections to develop individual discharge plans and provide specific reentry services for people within one year prior to their release from prison.
SB 5352 Rolling Back Limitations on Vehicular Pursuits. This bill would roll back the common-sense 2021 limitations on vehicular pursuits that have reduced deaths and made our communities safer. The substitute bill does place additional limitations on the types of crimes that may be the subject of a vehicular pursuit.
SB 5383 Legalizing Jaywalking. This bill addresses the longtime racial bias in enforcement of jaywalking laws and allows pedestrians to cross a roadway at any point as long as it’s reasonably safe to do so.
SB 5434 Raise the Age in Juvenile Court. This bill raises the age for jurisdiction of juvenile court from 8 to 13 and establishes a task force to study raising the age limit for juvenile court up through age 20.
SB 5451 Allowing Review of Long Sentences for Crimes Committed Before Age 25. Currently, people who committed crimes before age 18 can have lengthy sentences reviewed. This bill would increase the age from 18 to 25, recognizing that brain science shows that our brains do not become fully developed until age 25.
SB 5474 Eliminating juvenile legal financial obligations. This bill eliminates juvenile legal financialobligations and creates a community compensation program that is more equitable and better serves people who have been harmed.
SB 5536 Recriminalizing Drug Possession. Currently, possession of small amounts of drugs is a misdemeanor, and people arrested for possession must be referred to diversion services for their first two arrests. That law expires July 1, 2023. SB 5536 makes drug possession a gross misdemeanor, and diversion would no longer be mandatory. The substitute bill adopts some of the recommendations of the Substance Use Recovery Services Advisory Committee (SURSAC) that were included in SB 5624.
SB 5624 Implementing Recommendations of the Substance Use Recovery Services Advisory Committee (SURSAC). This bill implements the SURSAC recommendations regarding how the legislature should treat drug possession cases. These recommendations recognize that substance use disorders should be treated as a public health issue, not a criminal justice issue.
HB 1024 Real Labor Real Wages Act. This bill ensures that people who are incarcerated are paid a fair wage for the labor they perform and ensures that people are not required to pay for the cost of incarceration. It also increases the amount of earnings that will be placed in a savings account for each incarcerated person. The substitute bill (1) raises the minimum hourly wage to $1.50 instead of the statewide minimum wage of $15.74 per hour authorized under the original bill and (2) does not increase the amount placed in savings.
HB 1025 Private Right of Action for People Harmed by Peace Officers. This bill authorizes a private right of action for violations of the state Constitution or state law by peace officers—the state equivalent of a federal §1983 action. It does not allow peace officers to rely on the qualified immunity defense to avoid liability—i.e., it is not a defense that the law was not “clearly established” with respect to the acts or omissions at issue.
HB 1062 Deception during interrogations by law enforcement officers.This bill provides that statements made during custodial interrogations are presumed to be inadmissible if the law enforcement officer intentionally engaged in deception in obtaining the statement.
HB 1087 Ending Long-Term Solitary Confinement.This bill recognizes that long-term solitary confinement constitutes torture under international law and causes severe psychological trauma. It states that people who are incarcerated may not be placed in solitary confinement except for emergencies, medical isolation, or when requested by the person who is incarcerated. HB 1087 also limits the number of days that people can be held in solitary confinement and bans the practice for vulnerable people, such as those with mental or physical disabilities and pregnant people.
HB 1169 Legal Financial Obligations. This bill builds upon HB 1412 passed last year and allows for the waiver of certain legal financial obligations owed by defendants who have been convicted.
HB 1174 Ensuring Access for Voters in Jails. This bill requires county auditors to create a jail voting plan for each jail in the county and requires jails to provide access to voting materials to people in jail in accordance with the voting plan. It also mandates that jails allow election officials to enter the jails at least 30 days before each primary and general election to provide voter registration outreach and education.
HB 1189 Commutations of Prison Sentences. This bill expands the membership of the Clemency and Pardons Board and authorizes people in prison to petition the Board for conditional commutation of their sentences that includes a period of law-abiding behavior in the community.
HB 1324 Eliminating Juvenile Offenses from Sentencing Range Calculations.This bill removes juvenile offenses from the scoring calculations used to determine sentencing ranges.
HB 1345 Contribution to Costs of Privileges by People in Prison. This bill removes extended family visitation from the list of costs that people in prison may be required to contribute to.
HB 1445 Attorney General Investigations and Reform. This bill gives the Attorney General’s Office the authority to investigate law enforcement and local corrections agencies that have engaged in systemic violations of the Washington constitution or state laws.
HB 1479 Restricting Use of Restraint and Isolation of Students in Public Schools. This bill bans the use of isolation and mechanical and chemical restraints except when school resource officers are making arrests.
HB 1492 Establishes procedures for relief for people affected by State v. Blake. This bill establishes procedures and requirements for vacating convictions, resentencing, and refunding legal obligations pursuant to the Washington Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Blake, which held that Washington’s felony drug possession statute was unconstitutional.
HB 1513 Improving Traffic Safety. This bill prevents law enforcement officers from pulling people over for violations that don’t impact safety, limit searches following traffic stops, and provide funding to help people fix violations.
HB 1579 Independent Prosecutions for Police Use of Force. This bill sets up an Independent Prosecutions Unit in the Attorney General’s Office to prosecute crimes involving the use of deadly force by police officers.
HB 1586 Vehicle Pursuit Study Group. This authorizes the Criminal Justice Training Commission to create a work group to study vehicle pursuits and come up with policy recommendations. It also authorizes a grant program for tools such as GPS tracking, automated license plate readers, and drones.
HB 1798 Earned Release Time for Good Behavior. This bill standardizes the allowable time off of a sentence for good behavior at up to 33 1/3 of a person’s sentence, subject to some exceptions.
Read and take action through the LWVWA Legislative Newsletter that comes out each week during the legislative session; join the LWVWA Criminal Justice Action group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.