The growing trend of released inmates and marijuana misdemeanor cases being tossed out continued with Seattle, Washington last week. Seattle’s Mayor Jenny Durkan and the City Attorney Pete Holmes spoke before the media announcing their intentions to have every marijuana misdemeanor case from before 2012 tossed out.
The hopes of exonerating people with marijuana misdemeanors on their records is to open the door to job, housing and school opportunities for people that might otherwise be rejected due to their criminal records. Holmes threw out all marijuana possession cases after becoming city attorney in 2010, but plans to take that another step further now.
Durkan and City Attorney Pete Holmes estimate more than 500 criminal convictions will be erased from court records. Most represent cases prosecuted between 1997 through 2009, which accounts for the period when pot misdemeanor cases were prosecuted in Seattle’s municipal court. Prior to 1997 they were tried in county court, over which city officials have no jurisdiction.
The final decision to undo the convictions is up to the courts, according to Holmes. “However,” he said, “this is an instance where the prosecutor is bringing the motion to vacate and dismiss and those instances there is very little discretion on the part of the judge.”
Citing statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance, Durkan’s office said marijuana possession arrests in Washington rose sharply from about 4,000 in 1986 to about 11,000 in 2010, totaling 240,000 arrests. In Washington state, African Americans were arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites during the first decade of this century. Latinos and Native Americans were arrested at 1.6 times the rate of whites.
This is not the first time the city is throwing out marijuana cases. Shortly after his election in 2010, Holmes dismissed all marijuana-possession cases and said his office would no longer prosecute such offenses, The Seattle Times reported.
Unfortunately, many other marijuana misdemeanor cases in the state of Washington will not be thrown out since they do not fall under the city of Seattle’s jurisdiction. How long until other city attorney’s in Washington correct the records of the unfairly judged?