CITY BUDGET: Councilmember Herbold’s proposal to expand misdemeanor criminal defense

The City Council continues its budget review this week – looking at what the mayor proposed, and floating some of its own counterproposals and additions. The next step happens Tuesday night, when the council holds another public hearing (5:30 pm online). In her weekly email/online update last Friday, West Seattle/South Park Councilmember Lisa Herbold listed 14 of the items she has suggested in the “issue identification” phase; she’s been including budget-process updates each week. Among the 14 items was this one:

Duress and Di Minimis Defense Legislation:

This bill redefines the City’s definition of duress and di minimis in the Seattle Municipal Code to reduce the use of the King County Jail in instances where a jail sentence is not appropriate. If the bill passes, the duress and di minimis defenses could be utilized for individuals who, “at the time of the offense, experience symptoms of a behavioral health disorder or a behavioral health condition.” Or when, “the defendant committed the offense with the intent of meeting a basic need the defendant was experiencing at the time of the offense.”

Today, this proposal has gotten some extra attention because of social-media circulation of this opinion piece on the advocacy website ChangeWA, in which author Scott Lindsay contends the proposal would “excuse and dismiss almost all misdemeanor crimes committed in Seattle by persons with symptoms of addiction or mental disorder.” Several readers sent us the link today, so we checked out the proposal.

First, note that this has not yet been officially introduced as legislation. It was brought up last Wednesday in the stage of the budget process where councilmembers throw out ideas for consideration – Herbold’s newsletter explains that process. The ideas in that stage are not introduced legislation, not often discussed at length, not yet to the stage of being voted on for inclusion in the budget bill, or not.

Here’s what is on the record – from the council-staff memo for last Wednesday’s meeting, during the public-safety discussion:

Consider passage of legislation allowing dismissal of crimes of poverty (Councilmember
– This proposal would amend the criminal code to revise the definition of defense
against prosecution because an individual was under “duress” and include as a de minimis
charge crimes committed due to poverty or if an individual is having a behavioral health
incident. A reduction in County Jail services could result if these cases are dismissed and do not
result in sentencing to jail

That’s exactly what the slide deck for the meeting said. ChangeWA points to the King County Department of Public Defense website for a draft of what legislation about this might look like. Note that city law already includes “duress” and “de minimis” defenses – this would add to them. To the former, the public defenders’ draft adds:

D. In any prosecution for a crime, other than a crime of domestic violence, as defined in SMC 12A.06.120 or Driving Under the Influence, as defined in RCW 46.61.502, it is a defense that:

1. The actor participated in the offense with the intent of meeting an immediate basic need related to an adequate standard of living for the actor and/or their family, including adequate food, clothing, sanitation, and housing; or

2. At the time of the offense, the individual was experiencing symptoms of a behavioral health disorder not arising to a defense under SMC 12A.04.160;

3. Definitions:

a. For the purpose of this section a basic need is a commodity or service without which life cannot be sustained and includes, but is not limited to, adequate food, shelter, medical care, clothing, and access to sanitation.

b. For the purposes of this section, behavioral health disorder is defined as defined in RCW 71.05.020

Also from the public defenders’ draft, here’s what would be added to “de minimis”:

D. Was the result of attempting to meet an immediate basic need the defendant or that the defendant’s family was experiencing; or

E. At the time of the offense, the defendant was experiencing symptoms of a behavioral health disorder.

1. For the purpose of this section a basic need is a commodity or service without which life cannot be sustained and includes, but is not limited to, adequate food, shelter, medical care, clothing and access to sanitation. …

2. For the purposes of this section, behavioral health disorder is defined as defined in RCW 71.05.020

So what does the councilmember herself say? We asked Herbold for her reaction as well as explanation. First off: “The legislation would not legalize most crime. … The goal of this legislation is to authorize SMC judges to consider a duress or di minimis defense. The legislation does not provide ‘blanket immunity from most misdemeanors,’ the legislation does not ‘provide an absolute defense.’ This legislation does gives the Court and our judges the ability to dismiss a prosecution if they find the defendant’s conduct meets specific circumstances, a nexus between the crime committed and the circumstances the individual is in. It does not require it. This is an important distinction which gives additional authority to our SMC judges to address complex issues.”

SMC, in her reference, is Seattle Municipal Court, and it should be noted again, this is the court that considers the lowest-level crimes – misdemeanors – not felonies. Most of the crimes we report on here, for example, are felonies – vehicle theft, robbery, shooting, burglary. Those involve state laws and county courts.

So what does Herbold see as the need for this change? “As we’ve seen in the massive national and international protests in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, it is past time that we reexamine our systems which often perpetuate homelessness and economic instability. The City currently spends approximately $20 million a year on incarceration, which is known to significantly increase the risk of housing instability and homelessness. This legislation will provide an alternative path forward for judges seeking to assist individuals who’ve committed misdemeanors that can be clearly traced back to mental illness, substance abuse disorders, homelessness and poverty.”

WHAT’S NEXT: As mentioned above, the City Council has a public hearing on the budget Tuesday night, if you have something to say about this or any other proposal – 5:30 pm, online; the agenda explains how to watch and/or participate. Councilmember Herbold says the idea is next planned for discussion at Wednesday’s meeting, during the 9:30 am session, which also will be preceded by public comment – here’s that agenda. We will follow up on this, as well as any other of her proposals that actually get to the legislation stage.

111 Replies to "CITY BUDGET: Councilmember Herbold's proposal to expand misdemeanor criminal defense"

  • Rob October 27, 2020 (12:21 am)

    How many businesses have to find themselves unable to sustainably operate in Seattle (e.g., 3rd ave Bartells) and how many citizens have to fear for their own safety (e.g., 3rd and Pine, West Seattle Junction Park) before this Council figures out how to address the root causes of these issues (mental illness and drug addiction) rather than just decriminalizing the symptoms and consequences of these issues??????? This is lunacy.

    • AMD October 27, 2020 (7:18 am)

      The Bartell’s at 3rd & Union closed because the landlord jacked up the rent (same reason Byrnie Utz left in the months prior to them) making their rent 25% higher per square foot than any other location.  Just to be clear on the facts there.  I don’t think it’s wrong to acknowledge that locking people up doesn’t cure poverty or mental illness and that maybe that money it costs processing and temporarily incarcerating someone for stealing a box of tampons could better be used on supportive housing and treatment.  This doesn’t decriminalize anything.  If I’m reading it correctly, it just adds a legal defense that the court would then have to agree to.  Basically, it doesn’t allow you to steal willy-nilly and plead poverty any more than you can go around hitting people for no reason and claim self-defense.  You have to be able to back it up.

      • born here, not leaving October 27, 2020 (11:09 am)

        It will, in fact, give repeat offenders even more freedom to commit crimes. This will continue to make Seattle more unsafe.

      • KM October 27, 2020 (12:19 pm)

        Bartell’s also opened a brand new store just down the street in Belltown, people tend to overlook that as well (doesn’t fit the narrative!)

      • D Del Rio October 27, 2020 (12:38 pm)

        The last I heard, Bartells was still paying for their lease on an empty store. It was all over the news. It is very sad that it is cheaper to pay thousands every month than to stay open with all the violence and shoplifting they had to put up with.  I should know, that was my go to drug store when I worked downtown. 

        • AMD October 27, 2020 (3:37 pm)

          They closed a couple months earlier than planned because word got out that they were closing before it was officially announced and sales dropped off precipitously as a result.  This is information I got directly from Bartell’s management, not the news, but I trust Bartell’s knows more about Bartell’s than the news does (although the news is right that they did end up paying for the last couple months of their lease after the store had been vacated).  Regardless, this doesn’t change the fact that nothing is being decriminalized and respondents in this thread are being REALLY dramatic about a seriously small change.

          • Heartless October 27, 2020 (5:14 pm)

             Lots of us take issue with your last sentence, AMD. This is gonna turn into a HUGE issue. 

      • alki_2008 October 29, 2020 (1:03 am)

        Basically, it doesn’t allow you to steal willy-nilly and plead poverty any more than you can go around hitting people for no reason and claim self-defense.  You have to be able to back it up.

        Hitting someone when it’s self-defense makes sense.  If someone puts your life in danger, then you should be able to hit them to stop them from continuing to hurt you.  The person you hit endangered you.

        Stealing from someone when you are poor is not okay.  The person you stole from did not cause your poverty, so why is it okay for you to steal from them?

    • vote October 27, 2020 (7:46 pm)

      I would argue that mental illness and drug addiction are not the ‘root causes’ of crime, those are states/conditions people are in.

      If we really want to change issues around these conditions in our society, I think we need to examine what is leading to conditions of mental illness, poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, crime, etc. and try to root that out and help folks sooner.  We aren’t doing a good job as a society of taking care of everyone, and intervening and supporting people before they end up in these conditions.

      Also, not all who are mentally ill, poor, addicted to drugs, homeless, etc. are criminals, though there is some associated crime for sure. And keep in mind, there are folks who commit crimes who are none of these things. Rich white kids steal, vandalize, commit violence, steal cars, etc. too, you know.

  • Chemist October 27, 2020 (1:47 am)

    So “I stole the ebikes to pay for drugs” becomes an actual defense to get a minimum sentence without necessarily requiring participation in drug treatment…   Gross.

    • WSB October 27, 2020 (1:51 am)

      Most e-bikes cost enough that it would be a felony ($750+), so, not affected.
      Another thing worth noting: Seattle Municipal Court already has a Mental Health Court (I’ve covered hearings there):

      • Chemist October 27, 2020 (11:01 am)

        Ok, don’t steal the good ebikes with a battery, but a single RadRunner without the battery (or any bike with a depreciated value below $750).  Based on cases like Nickolas Osborne being released and then right back in jail a month later (Dec 2019 booking with ARSON 1 and ASSAULT 3 attached), the Mental Health Court seems limited too.  Arson and Assault are too low level?

         Municipal Court records show that the trespass case was dismissed last week as he was found incompetent to stand trial and not eligible for a restoration hospitalization due to the low level of the crime. But he was to be evaluated for possible commitment, and that decision is due tomorrow; he remains in jail in the meantime.

        • WSB October 27, 2020 (1:59 pm)

          The arson and assault cases are felonies, not misdemeanors. The arson is not a West Seattle case – I was worried for a moment that I’d missed something. Checking the docket, looks like he’s being sent off to Western State for an attempt at restoring competency. Completely irrelevant to this, though.

          • Chemist October 27, 2020 (5:19 pm)

            The 2nd count on 20-1-00146-1 is a gross misdemeanor (Ct 2.0: Gross Misdemeanor – 9A.48.090(1)(A) MALICIOUS MISCHIEF-3 PHYSICAL DAMAG on 12/21/2019 – OSBORNE) and, as a non-west seattle crime, I understand your not covering it. The courts of king county have access to all of that and his long history of needing mental health interventions (or that mental health court you mentioned earlier) but it’s frustrating to happen quickly after a charge is dismissed for “not eligible for a restoration hospitalization due to the low level of the crime” and now there’s $305,000? in bail attached to him. Statements like “Osborne appears to be mentally unstable and to have a severe drinking problem” and “Osborne is a severe alcoholic who sincerely does not recall the incident” are both consistent with being able to use Herbold’s de minimis defense plea for future misdemeanors if he ever passed mental competency evaluations.

    • Charlie October 27, 2020 (3:29 pm)

      The law does not say that at all, if by “drugs” you mean illegal drugs. If you mean “medicine for my sick child,” then it might apply, but the proposal does not suggest that people get off – it allows for certain factors to be included in the defense. A defense is either admissible or not, depending on the law. This proposal for a law would enlarge the scope of the defense allowed. 

  • WTF October 27, 2020 (4:54 am)

    People in Seattle need to pull their heads out of the sand and realize exactly what these people are doing. They are USING the pandemic and social distancing as a way to avoid full disclosure of their action. How inventive. 😤 They know the public-facing knowledge of their actions is far less now. People are tired and weary, so the council charges ahead to change our government when no one is paying attention. Ethical isn’t it. They use BLM as their backdrop; no one wants to push back on that-this city will call anyone who does a racist. These clowns without a car will decimate this city! And, for what? Power? Put a notch in city history? Make Seattle a socialist government? Pick one? They’re all true! WAKE UP before it’s too late. This is not a one party vs the other. It’s about the change of government. OUR government and these people are doing it without OUR consent .When the will of government overtakes the will of the people…you better be prepared to pay the price!

    • Chuck October 27, 2020 (11:33 am)

      Well said, thank you. I am confident that when Trump is re-elected by the silent majority that has been rushing to the ballot boxes and mailboxes (You didn’t think all this excitement was for MIA Sleepy Joe, did you Democrats?) that this state will be forced to see the writing on the wall all the way down to city level. Huge changes are coming to the political landscape, nationally and local. Wait and see! 

      • East Coast Cynic October 27, 2020 (1:14 pm)

        You’d be surprised at how many people will go out of the way to vote against the person they hate.  Some people aren’t crazy about downplaying a deadly pandemic or advising citizens to shoot up with beach to rid themselves of covid-19

      • Fiwa Jcbbb October 27, 2020 (5:15 pm)

        Dude….Donald lost the election by 3 million votes! Blue State senators represent 150 million more Americans than the red state ones. “Silent Majority”? Hahahahaha. Dump Trump, and I’ll throw in Lisa at no extra charge.

      • K. Davis October 27, 2020 (10:14 pm)

        Chuck … what deluded planet do you live on?  Care to put up $100 as to whether Trump loses next week?  I’ll even spot you 25 electoral votes.  Trump is toast; one can only hope that Herbold will be when she’s next on the ballot.  

      • alki_2008 October 29, 2020 (1:13 am)

        Do you really think that everyone that opposes the Seattle City Council is a Trump supporter?   Be realistic.  There is a huge gap between Trump and the socialist city council, and there are plenty of Dems and Repubs in between.

  • BD October 27, 2020 (6:01 am)

    Mental health issues aside, it sure seems like this would legalize shop lifting of food and clothing.  And, trespassing to poop in someone’s yard.

    • Neighbor October 27, 2020 (9:49 am)

      Or for that matter, to set up camp and *live* on private property, no?

    • Charlie October 27, 2020 (3:33 pm)

      The proposal is not to legalize anything. It’s to admit certain factors into the defense. The result could be a lighter sentence, or none, or the same punishment as before, depending on the judge. But the judge can’t tell a defense attorney that a defendant’s mental illness or poverty is irrelevant – in certain cases. No need for panic. 

  • Jeff October 27, 2020 (6:04 am)

    This sounds more like acknowledging what’s already done than any change.   The only low level crimes the city is interested in are the kind they collect fines for, and then obviously only from people that can pay. 

    • Sk October 27, 2020 (8:12 am)

      Yes! 100% true of Seattle’s policies!

  • Sk October 27, 2020 (6:21 am)

    So the Seattle City Council recognized there are homeless people living on the sidewalks breaking Municipal laws (usually crimes of convenience) so they believe the best solution is to abolish established Municipal Laws. Again citizens and businesses are going to be at risk now with no legal option or police for protection. Thank you Lisa and Council.

  • flimflam October 27, 2020 (6:22 am)

    wow, so no more even pretending these are crimes anymore huh? i guess that give more free up time for Pete Holmes. utterly ridiculous and yet more virtue signaling from the council, as usual. what next? citizens get charged with crimes for not giving thieves their stuff quickly enough?

  • M October 27, 2020 (6:25 am)

    Horrible leadership. We have to vote out this circus. 

  • Joel October 27, 2020 (6:51 am)

    People charged with crimes are often already given an option to get treatment instead of being charged…they often take that deal and then never show for agreed upon treatment…these programs are already in place….they often don’t work as there is no enforcement in making them get agreed upon treatment.   This is one way we have people in Seattle who have dozens of arrests and zero consequences for their actions.

  • bertha October 27, 2020 (6:53 am)

    Ask a cop and they will probably tell you ‘we aren’t going to arrest our way out of this problem.’ I’ve heard it over and over again in community meetings with police. In 2019, Washington State had the 3rd highest rate of adult mental illness in the U.S. and ranked 49th in number of psychiatric beds. This isn’t a problem the City Council can fix alone. This a complex state-wide and nation-wide problem and simplistic thinking like “arrest and throw them in jail” isn’t working, hasn’t worked and won’t work. The attitudes expressed in these posts illustrate our country’s horrific treatment of not only the mentally ill and drug addicted but their families as well as they struggle to find treatment for family members being lost to an illness not of their choosing. 

    • Mo October 27, 2020 (8:47 am)

      Why does WA state have a higher mental illness rate than other states? It’s very clear that WA state isn’t handling it very well – decriminalizing every act and justifying it by saying “the root cause was because they needed the money” or “the root cause was their addiction.” Just recognizing there is a root cause is not actually solving the problem. Why isn’t this such a problem in any other major city? I literally had never heard of a City Council until I moved to Seattle- that’s how little they impacted peoples lives or rocked the boat. I can’t go a week without hearing about some terrible policy the SCC has passed, and I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I don’t feel like they are passing policies that have my best interest at heart. 

      • Heartless? October 27, 2020 (3:29 pm)

        Mo, you are not alone.

    • Resident October 27, 2020 (9:04 am)

      De-Criminalizing their actions won’t help them either. What Lisa is proposing helps the city council not the people the law is aimed at. The council needs to tackle mental health head on but won’t because it is hard work and they are not interested in hard work.

    • McGruff October 27, 2020 (9:11 pm)

      Washington State had the 3rd highest rate of adult mental illness in the U.S.I cannot help but wonder if there just might be a correlation between states with high rates of mental illness and states with legalized weed?

    • alki_2008 October 29, 2020 (1:25 am)

      Where are you getting these rankings? 

      The MHA reports for 2020 and 2019 didn’t have WA in top 10.
      The  MHA rankings I saw for 2020 say:   
      Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Nevada were rated lowest in the overall state rankings. For adults only, these states remained consistent. Youth were slightly different however, adding Alaska and South Carolina to the bottom five states for mental health. 
      The MHA report for 2019 was similar, just replacing Wyoming with Alaska.

  • KWSeattle October 27, 2020 (6:53 am)

    Unbelievable! This is a terrible idea. There needs to be a standard of behavior and expectation for individuals to be held accountable to the law. 

  • WestJack October 27, 2020 (6:54 am)

    Another step toward complete lawlessness here.  The more  crimes criminals get away with, the more likely criminals are to commit more serious crimes. How can she expect people to live somewhere where laws don’t apply? Complete abdication of public safety coming from one of our leaders.

  • KWSeattle October 27, 2020 (6:55 am)

    Please – everyone who thinks this is a bad idea write to Lisa.herbold@seattle.govplease!

    • coffeedude October 27, 2020 (9:05 am)

      I have written so many times and ZERO response.  Its really disgusting that council basically ignores the population.  Remember this when they want to be re-elected.

  • Cogburn October 27, 2020 (6:59 am)

    I thought we were supposed to be discouraging crime, not enabling it. How about a penalty for not seeking the assistance programs available and just committing a crime? 

  • Pete October 27, 2020 (7:00 am)

    So I walk into Safeway and load up a cart with groceries and walk out the door without paying. I get stopped and say well I have no where to live and I am hungry. I walk into target and pick out some clothes and walk out the door without paying. I get stopped and say well I have no where to live and I needed a new coat. I take my pet to the vet and am provided some services. Instead of paying I just walk out the door with my pet and say I have no where to live so you suck it up vet and cover the cost of the services you just provided. This will just lead to a further erosion in the quality of life that has been creeping up on us for the last couple of years as low level crime is not dealt with. Just take for example the increase in package theft and car prowl incidents. Thanks Lisa for pointing out the errors in our ways of life in Seattle as we used to know it. 

    • MJT October 28, 2020 (1:31 pm)

      Try it and see if it works? It won’t, but you’ll have performed an excellent public service instead of just railing against the rain here.

  • Mj October 27, 2020 (7:18 am)

    No, no and no.  This is a terrible idea.  Laws need to be applied to everyone equally.  

  • Just want to know October 27, 2020 (7:34 am)

    Per Herbold “The legislation does not provide ‘blanket immunity from most misdemeanors,’ the legislation does not ‘provide an absolute defense.’ ”  So what happens to the criminals if they are caught stealing from people or stores and claim this type of defense?  My understanding of the court system is if you have a legal defense for committing a crime, it is no longer a crime and you are found not guilty.  How does this protect the people who voted for Herbold?

    • Karen October 27, 2020 (12:26 pm)

      Your understanding is incorrect. It just means that it’s legal to bring the defense up in court. It doesn’t mean your argument will be successful.Someone who kills someone else in self defense can still be arrested, booked, and charged with murder. The self defense argument only comes into play during the defense stage of the criminal justice system.If course, police and prosecutors may choose not to arrest, book, or charge someone for anything. That’s at their discretion. They may use the defense possibilities to inform their decision. But the possibility of a vigorous defense doesn’t prevent charges from being filed.

  • Greg October 27, 2020 (7:48 am)

    This is the exact opposite of what Downtown Seattle businesses need 

    • J October 27, 2020 (9:11 am)

      The city council and mayor are completely  giving in to the problems that at one point plagued seattle but effect the region, things will get a lot worse before they ever get better, years worth

  • Brenda October 27, 2020 (8:26 am)

    You guys all voted for her!!!!!The voting residents are to blame here. CULP 2020!

    • CMT October 27, 2020 (9:51 am)

      OK I think this is an absurd proposal by CM Herbold but . . . she is not the governor and Governor Inslee did not propose this.

      • uncle loco October 27, 2020 (11:06 am)

        Inslee let a bunch of low level criminals out of prison due to the virus, not to mention the Western State Hospital fiasco. He’s doing his part.

    • Wendell October 27, 2020 (12:39 pm)

      @ Brenda. Herbold should go, but to suggest Rosco P. Coltrane for the city council pretty much shows your preference for orange Kool-Aid.

    • D Del Rio October 27, 2020 (12:45 pm)

      I didn’t vote for her,  but a lot of voters didn’t like Amazon donating to some of the council seat elections in the city. Now this is what we get. She didn’t fool me one bit; I saw the writing on the wall with her. At least with Sawant, what you see is what you get, whether you like her or not. 

  • Chris K October 27, 2020 (8:59 am)

    I know this is controversial, but I firmly believe that compassion is never the wrong answer.  Kudos to Lisa for courageous and compassionate leadership.

    • Neighbor October 27, 2020 (9:55 am)

      I would argue that enabling people living on the street is the opposite of compassion. Compassion would be first making shelter available – we don’t seem to have done a great job of that- and then requiring people to make use of it. We can’t do the second until we’ve done the first, but all of these so-called band-aids are really just prolonging the un-compassionate practice of allowing people to live in tents.

    • Mark October 27, 2020 (10:06 am)

      Is compassion letting people live homeless in unsanitary conditions in a wealthy community?  Or is intervening and getting people not capable of making good decisions to a point where they can make good decisions?

    • fh October 27, 2020 (1:04 pm)

      What about also having compassion for the victims of crime? Residents and businesses who have things stolen from them, are harassed, have property damaged or trespassed upon, etc? Having compassion for those who are homeless or mentally ill is noble and good, but not when it goes too far into excusing and encouraging bad behavior that negatively affects others.

  • JT October 27, 2020 (9:01 am)

    In our society, we help others in need through things like reasonable
    taxes that pay for social services, and giving to charitable
    organizations like the West Seattle Food Bank.  But this proposal is
    insanity.  It is a back door tax on all of us, served up with a side order of diminishing safety.  It says, it is okay to commit petty theft out of necessity.  It says citizens and businesses that follow the law, you must pay for those who, instead of seeking out social services, decide to take from you. There has to be a better way to help people in need without encouraging or excusing crime.   This will not help one bit!

    • vote October 28, 2020 (7:57 am)

      I disagree. I don’t think this say’s it’s okay for low level crime to be committed. Maybe it’s acknowledging there are circumstances that may contribute to criminal activities and that there are some gaps and failures in our social services and systems to provide resources and help people. It seems a more realistic view than many of you seem to have, who think there are magical, abundant, easily accessible, appealing services, and adequate resources for all. 

      Instead of more drug stores for the average and well-to-do in society, maybe what we need in every neighborhood is a ‘free store’ (I know some of you just pee’d your pants) that has basics and essentials for those who need them. This store wouldn’t have exciting things. Just things like water, juice, bread, wool blankets, warm socks, very basic but adequate clothing, shoes/boots, etc. when you enter the store you enroll and receive a membership card. There would be daily/weekly/monthly allowances and limits. These stores could be managed by the city and staffed by compassionate volunteers.

      The way we’ve been approaching things hasn’t been working well enough. Maybe it’s time for some radical initiatives like this, rooted in compassion.

      • alki_2008 October 29, 2020 (1:38 am)

        Doesn’t the state already have something like this?  Isn’t the EBT card like a pre-loaded gift card that allows people to buy essential items in existing stores and the state pays for it.  I thought that was a thing.

        Maybe the problem is making sure that people who need the card can access it. Seems like that would be a step where outreach workers or volunteers could help.  The city itself should not take on the burden of providing for all of the homeless people.  They are not all from Seattle, or even from King County – so the issue needs to be addressed at the state or federal level.

        • vote October 29, 2020 (2:29 pm)

          My understanding is that EBT is a program low income and qualified individuals can apply for and if approved, receive some assistance with paying for groceries.

          Not sure of the qualifications or how long it takes for the process, but I imagine this is not an easily accessible option for those most struggling and more immediately in need, those living on the streets, or who cannot qualify for whatever reason. Or perhaps for that person who just has one hard day where they just need a place to go get a few essentials and will be receiving a paycheck the next day. 

          What is wrong with considering and exploring new ideas to improve old ongoing problems?

  • Philip Pichette October 27, 2020 (9:03 am)

    Imagine being committed to a health clinic or to housing for the homeless rather than a jail. We just voted to allow excess KC land to be sold to develop affordable housing. Let’s use some land to create what can only be called an old fashioned mental institution where people in need are housed and HELPED!  Short term stays for first offenders and long term stays for repeat offenders.  We should create more section 8 style housing for people who suffer from homelessness and require that they be used and outlaw living on the streets. Living on the street would be a misdemeanor and you would be committed to a roof over your head. 

  • Paul October 27, 2020 (9:05 am)

    This recommendation by Lisa Herbold is non-sense and doesn’t solve the issue.  The ChangeWA article was spot on with their conclusion.  copied here:
    Seattle’s criminal justice system is broken. Prolific offenders cycle from jail to the streets and back without any meaningful effort to address their behavioral health disorders. I share common cause with Councilmember Herbold and the public defenders in that belief. Everyone deserves to be frustratedBut the answer is not to throw out Seattle’s only means of accountability or disruption for misdemeanor crime. That path would be catastrophic for Seattle’s residents, businesses, and visitors. And it would only enable the destructive behaviors that are already ruining the lives of individuals committing frequent misdemeanor crimes.Seattle and King County should instead be focused on building robust behavioral health interventions into the criminal justice system. The public needs protection from Steven. And Steven needs in-patient treatment help for his addictions and mental disorders. But he cannot be trusted to get it on his own volition. Neither the public’s interests nor Steven’s would be served by turning a blind eye to his criminal activity.

    • ACG October 27, 2020 (10:30 am)

      And for clarity for Paul’s post, in case you haven’t read the Change WA article yet and are wondering who “Steven” is. The author of the Change WA article had described a repeat offender, named Steven in his discussion of this topic. It is an interesting article (you can read it through the link in WSB’s information).   If you have time, give the ChangeWA article a read along with WSB’s research and clarifications above. I appreciate WSB adding in their additional information. 

  • Ken Moore October 27, 2020 (9:25 am)

    Lisa’s proposal makes Seattle’s current lawlessness much worse.  The documentary “Seattle is Dying” pointed out that many/most of the offenders are either drug addicts and/or mentally ill. The Seattle legal system currently releases repeat offenders instead of requiring either mandatory drug rehabilitation or jail time. Lisa’s proposal will further exacerbate an already bad situation which is getting worse. I suggest everyone view the documentary to get a clear understanding of what is really going on.

    • psps October 27, 2020 (10:48 am)

      Um, “Seattle is Dying” was pure Sinclair right-wing propaganda designed to dehumanize the least in our society.

      • M October 27, 2020 (12:45 pm)

        Or finally a non sugar coated transparent depiction of what is actually happening in our city. We have a drug crisis in this city and we keep blaming it on big business. 

        • melissa October 27, 2020 (3:23 pm)

          We have a housing and metal health crisis in this city. We have a skyrocketing of people in poverty in this city, this state, and this country. Creating more opportunities for people to gain stability (housing, food, services that people choose) will help people struggling with homelessness. Demanding that they be incarcerated or put into mandatory drug rehab (which rarely works) will not help anyone. **Also, as mentioned above, this doesn’t mean that the city won’t prosecute, only that a lawyer can mention the circumstances.

          • CMT October 27, 2020 (4:34 pm)

            Well realistically, a prosecutor is unlikely to waste his/her time when the case is cut off at the knees by the invocation of this defense by the vast majority.  It’s not like prosecutors have time to parse through the circumstances of each misdemeanor defendant unrelated to the crime.  Of course this will mean that these types of crimes will not be prosecuted and thus, will not be deterred.

      • Nope October 27, 2020 (1:08 pm)

        I disagree. Your entitled to your opinion but I watched it and have seen most of the issues with my own eyes so maybe you need to get out more

    • Kadoo October 27, 2020 (3:19 pm)


  • Jort October 27, 2020 (9:28 am)

    I see the usual amount of nuance and careful consideration of ideas in the comment section, today. Did any of you read the whole thing? Because if you said Lisa is “abolishing law,” you didn’t. Her proposal allows judges the discretion to consider personal circumstances in whether the case is thrown out.  That’s a long ways from a “lawless Seattle” that you all so desperately seem to think is happening.  It’s simply another option to reduce the cycle of incarceration and poverty, which is a key demand of the Black Lives Matter movement, for which many of you are happy to put up yard signs.

    • SickofSDOTCorruption October 27, 2020 (12:17 pm)

      Yes, and I see the usual amount of snark and sarcasm from Jort, too.  Just another day in progressive paradise.

    • wscommuter October 27, 2020 (10:22 pm)

      Judges already have this discretion; this insanity proposed by Herbold would create a defense which does not exist in law anywhere else.  But this comment is typical of what we hear from the far-left extremists.  Not a lot of thought or actual facts; just knee-jerk ignorance.   

  • Buttercup October 27, 2020 (9:32 am)

    Who is going to protect and compensate the businesses who will lose much revenue from this. Shop lifting will increase and their business will fail Will they add more security? Then we will see more violence .

  • 11epees October 27, 2020 (9:47 am)

    For the record, Sunday, 10/18, Incident #2020-297052, a QFC employee was provoked, threatened, and physically attacked.  I saw it all and called it in as a nearby resident was able to video it.  Quite scary!

    • vote October 28, 2020 (8:35 am)

      What we never hear with these incidents, is the perspective of the person acting out and committing these crimes. I wonder what led up to this incident. What was the exchange between the store employee and this person, how was the individual treated in the store beforehand, both that day and in prior visits. There may be mental health or drug factors contributing, but the choices and behavior of the store and its employees may have contributed. Maybe considering this context could help to prevent future incidents.

  • Joel October 27, 2020 (10:37 am)

    I’ve been ‘lucky’ to get one response from herbold.   her garbage/recycling cans were out several days after pick up.  I emailed her and told her to get her cans back to her property.  she  emailed back telling me to give her a break…she was on vacation.   I said – wow….so you respond about garbage cans but not about any real issues?

  • Alex October 27, 2020 (10:37 am)

    The Council was only listening to the King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle groups during the beginning of their Defund Police rant.  These two groups have been quite clear that their goal is to decriminalize all misdemeanors and shut down the Seattle Municipal Court.   Herbold’s proposal is a step in that direction.    

  • River October 27, 2020 (10:57 am)

    Cut police headcount, close jails, excuse crimes.  It’s a great idea unless you pay taxes, own a home, and have a family.  Then it kinda sucks.

  • Rick October 27, 2020 (12:01 pm)

    “Cut police headcounts, close jails, excuse crimes”.  And everything should be free.  One step closer to Utopia.

  • Mj October 27, 2020 (12:09 pm)

    Jort – there is no excuse to steal from others!  This proposal needs to be put in the circular file and tossed out with the garbage

  • Mel October 27, 2020 (12:23 pm)

    If you are unhappy with the changes the city council is making, I sure hope you all voted NO on prop 4, 5, and 6. Particularly 5 and 6. These basically give the county council the full authority to do the things the city council has been doing. Do your research. People on the inside have stated that the king county council is using prop 5 (knowing that’s more likely to get voted down) to distract from prop 6 which is almost a bigger deal as some of the county council members are on record stating they want to defund KCSO and this would give them authority to do so.

  • WS Family October 27, 2020 (1:14 pm)

    NO!!!  Our beloved city and its hardworking citizens are sick of the trash, crime and suffering small businesses.  Tell the Seattle City Council to STEP UP!  DO NOT STEP BACK!

  • Jim P. October 27, 2020 (1:16 pm)

    I would be opposed to such people being simply told  “Naughty!” and let go.  Recompense is required.Community service to the tune of at least the value of the theft or damage would be appropriate.  Lots of use for a broom and dustpan in most parts of this filthy downtown.The whole thing has to be very narrowly tailored.  I note DUI is mentioned, thast’s 100% voluntary and should not be excused under any circumstance.If you can afford booze to the point of getting drunk, you can afford food.

    • WSB October 27, 2020 (1:55 pm)

      DUI and DV are mentioned specifically as exemptions.

  • Kram October 27, 2020 (1:27 pm)

    I have a question; if this was for the benefit of the people as many comments are implying why try and actively hide it from the public? This was not introduced in her own public safety committee. The City Council has never held a public hearing on it. The legislation was never made readily accessible to the public. It was introduced through a backdoor as an amendment in a budget committee meeting. If this is such a great bill that will help the greater good than why not submit normally and defend it? Seems disingenuous at best to try and cram this through secretly. All so a public defender can now use the argument that drug use was a ‘basic need’? However, I think I just agreed with a comment from ‘Jort’ for the first time so there’s that.

    • WSB October 27, 2020 (6:27 pm)

      That’s just a paraphrase of Scott Lindsay’s claim that there was something unusual and secret about the process here, which there was not. This is how the budget review process goes. I tried to clarify that above, also noting that CM Herbold herself announced it in her weekly newsletter – along with 13 other ideas she has proposed in the budget process. As we also tried to explain, this is not even introduced legislation yet, also contrary to what he suggested. The author is a longtime insider (public-safety adviser for ex-Mayor Murray, former candidate for city attorney) and could easily have described the process accurately without the insinuations – there’s enough to consider in making your mind up about the idea on its own merits or lack of same – TR

      • Kram October 28, 2020 (8:08 am)

        I stand corrected, thanks for being thorough WSB. I should have read more about it before commenting…

  • Findlay October 27, 2020 (4:32 pm)

    Can we get a look behind the scenes of our Council and Staff to understand how these new laws originate? Can these workshops be made live/public? Every day our Council rips these Onion / Babylon Bee headlines and make them law. How did Seattle get so woke?

    • WSB October 27, 2020 (7:15 pm)

      Plain view. We published this story in July, attempting to explain what the “defunding” proposal was about and asking CM Herbold about her 180 on policd staffing:

      It included the full presentation made to the council (video and embedded text document) by the “defunding” advocates. As part of that, this:

      Another key component will be continued efforts to decriminalize misdemeanor charges, so that a police response can be rendered moot. Currently, people of color in Seattle are disproportionately criminalized for low-level crimes including shoplifting, low-level drug charges, trespassing, and disorderly conduct. Enormous expenditures in police and court costs are the result. Decriminalizing misdemeanors would free up resources for meeting real human needs, and would stop one of the main pathways through which Black people and other people of color are targeted for criminalization.

      • Neighbor October 28, 2020 (10:57 am)

        Help me understand if I’m misinterpreting this:

        Another key component will be continued efforts to decriminalize misdemeanor charges, so that a police response can be rendered moot. 

        Because what that sounds like is that they assume we’ll need fewer police because they won’t need to respond to misdemeanor crimes anymore. If I’m understanding this correctly, it’s not about giving judges leeway (which they already have) so much as it’s about not arresting people in the first place.

  • melissa October 27, 2020 (4:53 pm)

    The amount of hysteria here is truly breath-taking. Defense attorneys may raise the state of the accused. This isn’t a free pass. And yes, if we elect someone, we are giving them the power to make proposals. We elected Lisa Herbold. If you disagree with her, email her office or email other city council members. And vote. And River (comment above), I own a house, pay taxes, pay taxes, and live in Seattle. And I think this is a sensible proposal that ought to be discussed. 

    • CMT October 27, 2020 (8:30 pm)

      It is not “hysteria” to recognize that this is foolhardy.  It is common sense to do so. As I stated above, prosecutors do not have the time to spend looking behind every misdemeanor crime to analyze whether the factors comprising this defense exist or are merely being asserted as a way to evade consequences.  Since a prosecutor cannot prosecute every case it is likely that cases in which this defense is raised will be the least likely to be pursued, regardless of merit.  The deterrent to someone inclined to commit this type of crime is effectively eliminated. The best I can say is that the proposal may have been well-intentioned.  Unfortunately, addressing the homeless issues facing Seattle requires more than simply good intentions.

  • LEL October 27, 2020 (6:32 pm)

    Council members Lorena Gonzales and Theresa Mosqueda are up for re-election next year as they are the citywide positions.  Let’s get a couple smart moderate candidates and vote these two out.  Also if you can give to the recall Sawant effort at, that could open up possibilities to get rid of her toxic, bullying tactics.  You don’t have to be in her district to donate.  Sadly we are stuck with Herbold for another 3 years. Ugh,

  • CamIsTerrible October 27, 2020 (8:11 pm)

    As a city, we put more time into training our dogs than we do getting people to live responsibly as a member of society.  By giving a treat as a reward for bad behavior…I think we know where this goes.  We need some fortitude in addressing this and insisting people don’t defecate, discard needles and steal from their neighbors.  Is it complex? yes.  Is it beyond just Seattle’s scope? Yes.  Does this help solve the problem?  Absolutely not.  I have a basic need to drive a Maserati.  That doesn’t allow me to grab the one I see on my dog walk every day.  This isn’t without compassion; we spend a ton to address this issue, and, the very least, we need a social compact that includes an obligation that those we’re trying to help play by the rules and obey the law.  I am disappointed but wholly unsurprised that Lisa proposed this.  She’s not representing D1.

  • Millie October 27, 2020 (10:17 pm)

     Do are Councilmembers and, specifically, Councilmember Herbold enjoy living in the Seattle of today?  Garbage in City parks, on streets,  increased disregard of laws, the list can go on.  Society requires structure and accountability from all its’ citizens.    We teach children the difference of right and wrong behavior – why should adults  be allowed to forget these teachings.  Lisa’s idea should go in the circular file.  Enough of these asinine ideas from our elected officials.   You are there to ensure a safe, clean, livable, law-abiding and peaceful city for all its’ citizens.  

    • jsparra October 28, 2020 (12:31 pm)

      Well said, simple truth.

  • Laura Newell October 27, 2020 (10:57 pm)

    Wow, look at these apocalyptic comments. I didn’t know there were this many Javerts living in West Seattle waiting to explain to us why it is so essential for Jean Valjean to serve 19 years when he steals a loaf of bread. Really disappointing. 

    • Calires October 28, 2020 (12:47 am)

      Jean Valjean in 2020 Seattle isn’t stealing bread to feed his sister’s children, he’s stealing catalytic converters and tools and cell phones to fund his drug habit.

      • vote October 28, 2020 (9:32 am)

        I’m with Laura, on her point. And also, catalytic converters, expensive tools, and cellphones didn’t exist then.

        For those unfamiliar with the Jean Valjean reference here, let me help, watch the movie Les Miserable, currently available on Netflix.

  • DeadEnd Marc October 28, 2020 (9:13 am)

    So, instead of paying it forward, this is payback for the Police Union allowing deadly force by claiming the Officer was “In fear for their life”???One might want to figure out how many people this represents annually, what percentage of crime statistics, and find a better way of enforcing law other than giving people a reason to be labelled or granted a free pass for illegal behavior. I know it makes their future lives harder to organize, but the Judicial System can take the lead on this vs. our City Council picking winners and losers in criminal enforcement. I am far less likely to vote for this Council Person ever again.

  • Marcus T October 28, 2020 (9:49 am)

    Ah the WSB comment section: the place White Supremacists go to vent.

  • Ursula October 28, 2020 (11:00 am)

    Marcus T Your comment offends with a dismissive, superior tone, with no room for human error, discourse, forgiveness and growth. 

    • Marcus T October 28, 2020 (12:32 pm)

      I’m sorry – did you say you were looking for discourse, forgiveness and growth in a comments section?  If so, I have some property in Florida I’m looking to sell…

  • WSB October 28, 2020 (11:53 am)

    We’ll have an update on this proposal’s status later today. During today’s budget-review meeting, Council President Lorena González suggested breaking it out of the budget process and delaying the consideration until the council is back to regular meetings after the budget is passed next month. There remains no actual legislation in the city system, so far. – TR

  • D October 28, 2020 (1:58 pm)

    CM Herbold continues her work against the taxpaying law abiding citizens and businesses in Seattle  In addition to this proposal they are considering tax funded safe injection sites…so you get to pay for illegal drug use on top of  it all 

  • Lagartija Nick October 28, 2020 (2:46 pm)

    I would like to know how much retribution the law and order folks think is appropriate for these low level misdemeanor crimes? The 15 yr old homeless kid who steals a sandwich? Should we put him in jail for 30 days and give him a $1000 fine or do we just go back to chopping off his hand? The 30 yr old drug addict who shoots up in a park? Should we put him in a stockade and pelt him with rotten vegetables or do we just hang him in the public square? The 50 yr old homeless woman suffering from mental illness that yells at you on the street? Do we lock her in prison for a year or just cut out her tongue? What? You think I’m being ridiculous? No, that would be you equating these crimes (low level misdemeanors) with serious infractions. In case you missed it, there’s a reason we as a society chose to do away with barbaric punishment for petty crimes. So I’ll ask you all again, how much pound of flesh do you believe is reasonable to extract from the most vulnerable among us just so you can feel comfortable in your law and order world?

    • Neighbor October 28, 2020 (3:31 pm)

      Who’s advocating for any of what you referenced? You sound like our only options are to punish the homeless/addicted/mentally ill people or to throw up our hands and say “Sorry, nothing we can do here!”  I reject that notion. We are and should be better than that. Protecting safety and making help available to vulnerable populations are not mutually exclusive. 

    • Canton October 29, 2020 (6:15 am)

      Ok scenarios.  Say you are sitting on park bench, eating lunch, next to fellow shooting up. An older woman comes up yelling profanities at you, while 15 yr old steals the lunch out of your hands. Should that be an acceptable case? Which of these individuals would you welcome into your home for an extended  stay?

  • westseattlite October 29, 2020 (12:13 am)

    So we
    legalize cannabis and
    you wonder why there is so much more mental illness…..really? only
    the voters and politicians would focus on root causes of social breakdown
    instead of attempting to come up with novel solutions to deal with the effects.
    Further, it sure didn’t help that Gov.
    Jay Inslee
     screwed up losing $58 mill. In federal funds for Washington
    state’s largest psychiatric hospital

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