FOLLOWUP: Misdemeanor criminal defense expansion proposal shelved for at least a month

During this morning’s City Council budget-review meeting, Councilmember Lisa Herbold‘s proposal to add potential defenses to city misdemeanor criminal law – covered here Monday night – got about half an hour of discussion (starting at 1:46:50 in the video above). End result: At Council President Lorena González‘s request, the proposal is being pulled out of the budget process and shelved until the council gets back to regular business in about a month. González said that council staffers are already more or less maxed out on the work they can do during the intensive budget-review process, and also noted that this isn’t purely a budget matter anyway. In her initial remarks about it, Herbold said, “This is really about creating some transparency about the conditions of the lives of people who have been accused of offenses … The proposal does not require a dismissal or acquittal – it simply allows the defense.” The other councilmembers who spoke during the discussion expressed support for the concept, including González and Councilmember Andrew Lewis, a former assistant city attorney. He noted that no legislation has been drafted yet but he would expect some (unspecified) changes in the version posted by public defenders: “There’s a lot more work that needs to be done, a lot more discussion that needs to happen.” González said she supports the goals of the proposal – “I continue to believe that it’s time to stop the criminalization of poverty, addiction, and mental illness.” Though shelving the proposal until after the budget process wasn’t described during the meeting as a done deal, we confirmed with Herbold later that it is – and she adds, “Consequently, I’ll be taking the issue up in December.”

15 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: Misdemeanor criminal defense expansion proposal shelved for at least a month"

  • Jack October 29, 2020 (8:33 am)

    Why is there no talk of mandatory   rehab for drug addicts instead of jail time.   Money spent on incarceration would be better spent on actually trying to fix em  rather than allowing them to steal to keep up their habit.  It seems there’s access to food and shelter if they agree not to do drugs   So this is more of a drug problem than a poverty issue   Money saved by the court and jail will be nothing compared to the loss to property businesses and citizens will suffer   With covid  we can’t afford to support drug addicts with our merchandise and items stolen from cars and residences

    • wscommuter October 29, 2020 (4:38 pm)

      I’m a big believer in drug court diversion and rehab … but what do you mean by “mandatory rehab”?  How does that work?  What sanction or compulsory event makes rehab mandatory except the threat of incarceration?  Can you explain?

      • Heartless? October 30, 2020 (4:34 pm)

        Commuter,It sure seems like sooner or later something’s got to become mandatory. And mandatory means backed up by fines or incarceration. Without making rehab mandatory , how many are going to go?Maybe you are hoping we can use some kind of positive reinforcement? What does that look like? Pay them to go?  Silly idea. You answered your own question, because there is nothing else. You must be one of the one-percenters, because 99% of people probably understand exactly what “mandatory rehab” means.

  • Steve October 29, 2020 (11:21 am)

    The council is overloaded with screwing up the city? The proposal is garbage. Worse than a slap on the wrist. This will send offenders right back onto the streets sometimes the same day. A year ago there was a big discussion on keeping repeat offender’s locked up. What happened to that?

  • Rockatansky October 29, 2020 (11:26 am)

      Weren’t we told there would be a new cadre of trained substance abuse counselors, de-escalation specialists and social workers to help take care of our unsheltered population ? Instead we have no homeless transition team and a city council that simply wants change the definition of what crimes are. Where is the plan besides just further decriminalization this is really disappointing   

  • Sillygoose October 29, 2020 (11:41 am)

    So tell me Andrew Lewis how are these individuals who are arrested for these crimes going to be dealt with after you “stop the decriminalization of poverty, addiction, and mental illness.” ?  I haven’t read any plans on how you are going to get these individuals any type of reform!! Here is a plan when they are arrested for theft, destruction of property, smashing out business windows, stealing daily from retailers take them straight to a rehab facility or mental institute!  Why are they being released to commit additional crimes?  Your suggestions show no means of solving the issues at hand instead you are enabling this unlawful behavior.  

  • Jeremy Oliver October 29, 2020 (12:33 pm)

    This is no longer about the criminalization of poverty, addiction, and mental illness and it has turned into  the glorification of poverty, addiction, and mental illness. Combine this with the futility of attempting to rectify these issues on the city level that are never solved but ever increasing on the federal level, and it becomes no more than posturing in the City Council: look at me, I am more progressive than Sawant. Add into the equation the reduced police budget in the middle of pandemic and recession, and this can only lead down one path – the Travis Berge way, but with more bloodshed.

  • Heartless? October 29, 2020 (12:34 pm)

    Gonzalez is obviously another that needs to go.  She “…continues to believe….”. Well guess what Lorena, your continued beliefs continue to be wrong-headed!  Are you listening Lisa? Are you listening Andrew?

  • sgs October 29, 2020 (2:35 pm)

    My understanding of this proposal is that it seems to change the definition of what should be considered wrong.  I would support dealing with crimes committed “due to”  mental illness or poverty in the sentencing phase, but continue to call a spade, a spade.  Stealing is wrong.   Stealing food is more understandable, but there many food bank resources that can provide assistance.   

  • IheartBBP October 29, 2020 (3:17 pm)

    I am incensed that Lisa Herbold and the rest of the City Council would take up this proposed change which would essentially decriminalize theft, assault, vandalism if one committed it while on drugs, or because of their own poverty.   I listened to the conversation in the recording above and am sickened that there was NO, ZERO, ZILCH conversation about protecting the victims of crimes.  How does this protect us?   They admit there are not enough mental health resources, but rather than take that up, they rush to offer an active defense for criminals.  THIS CANNOT CONTINUE!  If you agree, please call Lisa Herbold’s office to comment 206-684-8801. 

  • 1994 October 29, 2020 (10:26 pm)

    This idea deserves permanent filing in the recycle can. As another commenter mentioned, who is going to compensate the stores for losses attributed to shoplifting because the thief is poor, hungry, has substance use issues, or mental illness….? Does the city council have an idea for a mitigation fund to compensate stores and their loss? Maybe the city council can think of a way to raise taxes to supply the indigent citizens with shopping passes so the stores don’t have the hassle of trying to file police reports. I have lots of creative ideas for the city council!

  • Mj October 29, 2020 (10:33 pm)

    Tomorrow the Council will be talking about how everyone should be treated equally.  Theft is theft and is against the law.  It’s incredulous that anyone would even bring up the insane idea that it’s ok for anyone to break the law!

  • Canton October 29, 2020 (10:39 pm)

    It seems like this proposal could decriminalize the property crimes of rioting and looting. Wasn’t one of CHOP’s demands, to let the arrested rioters be released? With this Cal Anderson park could be legally occupied as long as there are enough people to divide the damage amongst. 

  • WTF October 30, 2020 (11:07 am)

    None of our needs and wants as law-abiding Seattleites matter to these people, and never will until they become a victim of a crime.

  • Jack October 31, 2020 (2:18 pm)

    Not sure of the legal issues of sending repeat addicted offenders to a manditory rehab.  But going to jail is certainly no deterrent to crime especially  if u have offenders with an average of over 30 arrests rehab is a deterrent   They would pack up and leave but our council seems  more concerned about the rights of people who are breaking the law practically daily than the rights of people that are paying their wages.     If the council has an incredible plan to send a fleet of social workers out the fix this. Then they better get on it soon  

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