A recent ruling by the Washington State Supreme Court may have a huge impact on the lives of individuals with previous drug possession convictions. In the case of State v. Blake, the court determined that WA’s then-current drug possession statute (RCW 69.50.4013) was unconstitutional.
The reason? Unlike other U.S. states, Washington’s possession law did not require the prosecution to prove that the individual charged possessed an illegal substance knowingly.
Because the court assumes that a law that is now unconstitutional was also unconstitutional in the past, this ruling may retroactively affect cases going back decades.
What does the ruling mean for those with possession convictions?
Many counties have established a streamlined process for those convicted under the old possession statute to have those convictions vacated. For many with simple drug possession charges, this has also meant release from current jail or prison sentences.
What about individuals with a possession-related offender score?
The situation becomes more complicated for individuals who are currently serving time for a non-drug-related conviction, but, at the time of their sentencing, also had one or more prior drug possession convictions on record.
Because those possession convictions may be retroactively void, an individual’s offender score, or the number of points on his or her criminal record, may be much lower after the new ruling.
Individuals who have had drug possession convictions counted against them in the past may be able to request a resentencing hearing. With prior possession offenses vacated, the court may significantly reduce the final sentence for a non-drug conviction.