Washington Marijuana Laws: What You Need to Know

Even though recreational marijuana was made legal in the state of Washington, there are still some restrictions. It should be noted that the lawmakers of Washington are still trying to figure out how to safely implement these new rules. So in a sense, marijuana is technically still against the law.

Here’s what you need to know about the Marijuana laws in Washington:

Legal Purchasing

In Washington, there are stores that are legally allowed to sell marijuana. However, these stores or “dispensaries” are not permitted to sell anything else. They can only sell products that are marijuana or items relating to it. Furthermore, finding these stores is really simple. There are two ways to find these stores; the Leafy Store Finder and using the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis board.

Traveling with Marijuana

Because it is legal in only Washington, you may not take the marijuana you purchase out of the state. Not to mention, it’s also against the law to drive while under the influence of marijuana. If you are suspected of driving while you are high, you will have a blood sample taken at a police station or any medical facility. Should the blood sample contain 5 mL of THC or more, you will be arrested. You must wait five hours or more, depending on the type of marijuana you consumed, in order to drive.

Public Use

Smoking marijuana in public is against the law no matter what state you live in and even Washington is no exception. Marijuana can become very overwhelming, not only to you but to everyone else around you. Even though there is no record of anyone dying from smoking marijuana, it can still impact your mind and thought process.

Marijuana Storage

The state of Washington has actually had a spike in poisonings because children have accidentally consumed marijuana. Because of this, the Washington lawmakers have made specific laws regarding the containment of marijuana. The main purpose of these storage laws is to solely prevent kids from ingesting it.

With these rules in mind, you now have the responsibility to smoke marijuana to your heart’s desire. Just remember to be careful of how much you smoke/eat and be mindful of your surroundings as well.

What to look for in a Public Defender


The American Bar Association (ABA) is conducting seminars and has published a handbook that addresses what to look for in a “public defense delivery system.” Among the ABA’S ten principles of a public defense system is that “defense counsel is provided sufficient time and a confidential space within which to meet their client.” Unfortunately, many municipalities contract for jail services far from their jurisdictions. Public defenders. therefore, frequently confer with their clients in the back of courtrooms often within earshot of court security officers.

Another ABA principle is that their be salary parity between defense counsel and the prosecution–yet a recent lawsuit settled in our state Supreme Court demonstrated that in King County the lack of such parity.

post9aThe ABA also recommends that defense counsel be supervised–yet many public defense contracts emphasize that an attorney must be able to work without supervision without ever mentioning the need for some supervision. Public Defense contracts are open to public inspection and if you are concerned about the quality of public defense representation in your jurisdiction I suggest you examine these contracts and compare them with the principles of a public defense delivery system as set forth by the ABA.

This is a common question that is being asked a lot. First of all, we need to make sure that a Public Defender did have a lot winning cases. This is the most important thing when we choose. A Defender that had a lot of winnings is probably the best. Of course, usually those people cost much more than the rest. But that is the price. If you want to make sure that you will be on the winning side, don’t be a cheapskate. After all, this is your case we are talking about. In order to turn the odds on your side, you will definitely need to have a Defender that knows his way around the book, the court and the law.

Proper advisements at arraignments

In July Humberto Leal Garcia, jr was executed in Texas. Mr. Leal was a Mexican citizen and during his detention he was not advised he may contact consular officials.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice found that foreigners detained abroad had a right under the Vienna Convention to be told they could contact their consular officials. In 2008 The U.S. Supreme Court found that the international court’s ruling was binding but that Congress through legislation, and not the President acting alone, could compel the states to compel with international law. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, found that while Mr. Leal’s rights were violated he was not prejudiced by the Vienna Convention violation.

post8aSome, but not all, Washington courts advise defendants of their Vienna Convention rights. The U.S. Attorney’s office has regularly encouraged prosecutors to provide these advisements at arraignments–and considering the slim margin in the Supreme Court’s decision it would seem prudent that all Washington courts (and not just some) follow the law.

Although we live in a democratic state and society, sometimes things don’t go in a way they should. First of all, there are numerous mistakes that the state institutions make. First of all, the state institutions are obligated by the law to follow that law and to practice it and use it for providing different services to citizens. Sometimes, when there are situations like this, some state institutions don’t work in a way they should. First of all we can see that sometimes there is a state of hypocrisy where double standards are used. This is a terrible situation for a legal system that claims to be democratic and respects human rights. We can only imagine the message, we have sent to the world. The message needs to be clear. All of our courts need to respect the law and of course we need to respect the conventions we have signed. We are obligated to respect them and apply them to our legal system.

Jury Selection and a Winning Case


Less than 3 weeks ago went to trial on a Class A Felony case. My client was charged with Burglary in the First Degree. During jury selection one of the potential jurors volunteered she had been a victim of a residential burglary and she thought she could not give my client a fair shake. The trial judge invited me to make a motion to have the juror disqualified (by exercising a challenge for cause) and I reserved the right to make such a challenge until jury selection was completed.

One rule of thought is that if a juror warns you they may be unfair and you keep that juror on the panel that, in that juror’s mind, it is the lawyer’s own fault if their client gets an unfavorable verdict.post7a In this particular case, however, I believed the juror was trying to be fair by volunteering information about herself and would work hard to overcome any bias she had. There are a number of reasons this jury ultimately returned a Not Guilty verdict–but I am convinced that keeping jurors that don’t try to hide their biases is normally a good strategy.

This is a really common thing which is a good thing. There aren’t many jurors who will say and be honest that they had a case like this and their judgment won’t be clear. This is probably not so rare situation, but it could be presented always, that someone doesn’t want to be in a jury if they believe that their verdict won’t be fair. As you can see, there are people out there who still have moral beliefs and moral standards. Although we can admit that this is pretty rare in today’s modern world. As you can see, this proved to be a glimpse of hope that there are normal and moral people in this world. This person could have easily kept silent and continued jury duty. And her recent situation could have probably influenced the verdict. But she couldn’t do it and this is a classic example of a person who has a high morale state. This is a person that is truly worth admiring.

Default judgments on Traffic Infractions


Although traffic tickets are civil infractions and this is a criminal law blog the fact is the lawyers that represent people on traffic tickets are frequently criminal defense attorneys.

In any event, in preparing for a criminal case in Sea-Tac Municipal Court I decided to review their local court rules and STMCLR 2.4 caught my attention. This local rule only allows a contested hearing following a default judgment on a traffic ticket if a defendant can provide written proof he or she had made a timely written request for a contested hearing. This local rule is in stark contrast to CR 60 which is the court rule adopted by the post6aWashington State Supreme Court that sets forth a number of other grounds (such as excusable neglect) for vacating a default judgment. I would submit the most obvious example of excusable neglect that could result in a default judgment being vacated under CR 60–but would not be grounds for relief under STMCR 2.4– is if a defendant was hospitalized and physically unable to appear for court. CR 60 supersedes STMCLLR 2.4 and when I helped draft the court rules in Federal Way it caught my attention that certain rules (such as the Federal Way rule on video proceedings) conflicted with state law.

The practice of the Sea-Tac Municipal Court regarding vacating default judgments may be different than their stated rule–but the publishing and distributing of this rule does put a chilling effect on defendants seeking a vacation of a default judgment.

As we can see, vacating is very important in some situations. The same thing goes for contested hearing and of course for excuses when you are unable to appear on court. In some cases, these possibilities are used to increase the possibility of winning. You would be amazed how some lawyers can bend the rules and use it to vacant a verdict and use that to win the case. But keep in mind that these lawyers are really good, they are aces in their line of work. It is always advised to write an appeal to the higher court in order to achieve better position or a reduced sentence. Even if you did win the case, you can always write an appeal where you state that you think that you should have gained better conditions. Of course, the percentage always play a part in the success of that kind of appeal.

Stipulated Orders of Continuances and Expungements


There is no Washington state statute that recognizes the authority of a court to enter into Stipulated Orders of Continuance (SOC). Courts of Limited Jurisdiction, unlike the Superior Courts, are not courts of equity but are courts that sole power is derived by statute–so while many courts authorize SOCs they do so with the belief that this is a private agreement between the defense and the prosecution and that the court’s role is merely to insure that the defendant is knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily giving up certain constitutional rights (such as a right to a speedy trial)  that are often relinquished before the prosecution will agree to enter into an SOC.

post5aThe parties in many SOCs agree that the outcome, upon a defendant complying with certain conditions such as seeking addiction treatment at a facility is a dismissal. This makes an SOC similar to diversion programs–although diversion programs are statutorily recognized programs.

Ordinarily a defendant is entitled to have non-conviction data deleted from criminal justice agency files, upon proper application to the Washington State Patrol (WSP), if a misdemeanor is dismissed. The relevant criminal justice agency , pursuant to RCW 10.97.060, has the discretion to maintain the non-conviction data (such as the fact of an arrest) if the dismissal was the result of a…”deferred prosecution or similar diversion of the alleged offender.” RCW 10.97.060 (1). The WSP treats SOC dismissals as identical to a deferred prosecution for the purposes of this statute and are not inclined (absent a court order) to delete non-conviction data from a dismissal following an SOC.

post4bIt is time the legislature recognize  SOCs since they are common place in courts of limited jurisdiction and have proven to be an effective mechanism to equitably resolve cases short of trial. It is also time to find a simpler mechanism to get non-conviction data removed from an alleged offender’s record after a case is dismissed following an SOC.

So as you can see, judges and generally the court usually bend the legal system a little bit. And if the parties agree on these conditions, then it is surely a good outcome for both sides and what is more important, the case will be dismissed. Courts as you have seen above, are not allowed to allow these orders. But as common practice says, there are cases in which both sides agree to respect the final decision. If the defendant complies and do exactly as he/she is being told, the case will be dropped and everything will be ok. The thing is, this is a more economic measure because it saves a lot of time and money for the court and the state. The effect is probably the same or almost the same as if the real sentence was brought. So we can understand why this court practice is very much alive.

The News Tribune v. Cayce


Most coverage of the case of The News Tribune v. Cayce focused on the conduct of 2 Superior Court Judges–Judge James Cayce and Judge Michael Hecht. Judge Cayce closed a courtroom during the taking of a deposition in a criminal case in which the defendant was Judge Michael Hecht. Judge Cayce’s decision to close the courtroom prompted The News Tribune to seek a writ–which the State Supreme Court denied in a written decision last month.

post4aThe conduct of two other judges in this case are also worth reporting. Pro Tem Justice Richard Sanders  joined in the dissent in this case 6 months after he left office. It had been reported that Justice Sanders would rule on cases he heard (including The News Tribune v. Cayce) and serve as a Pro Tem Justice for 2 months. Snohomish County Prosecutor Mark Roe, among others, objected to Justice Sanders remaining on the bench as a Pro Tem Justice for an additional 2 months although it has been an accepted practice for outgoing Justices to finish the cases they had heard oral arguments on. The question remains, however, how a 2 month appointment resulted in a decision that was announced 4 months after the appointment was to expire.

Justice Charles Johnson was a newspaper delivery carrier for The News Tribune while growing up. I am aware of this fact, as are countless others, because The News Tribune carried large ads with a current photograph of Justice Johnson acknowledging his relationship with The News Tribune while celebrating that publication’s anniversary. As stated in an earlier posting, the rules on recusal are ambiguous at best but appearing prominently in several newspaper ads that directly promote the interests of a litigant does not promote the appearance of impartiality. Justice Johnson, however, did vote with the majority and against The News Tribune.

As we can all see, this subject is a little bit tricky. Even judges can sometimes act in a way that isn’t according by law and it is not moral. First of all, you can clearly see that even judges can pick a side or at least cheer for a side. In order to have a legal system that is based on law and moral grounds, we need to make sure that these cases and cases like this one in the future, must be reported at all cost. Cases like this usually show that people are sometimes right when they don’t have beliefs in the legal system.

Vacating your Criminal Conviction in Washington state

  1. Is your conviction a felony or a misdemeanor?

Different statutes and different courts determine whether to vacate a conviction depending on whether that conviction is a felony (see RCW 9.92.066, 9.95.240 and 9.94A .640) or a misdemeanor (RCW 9.96) or a juvenile offense. The defendant’s sentencing court is normally the court that shall hear a motion to vacate a conviction. In addition to vacating your conviction, you may seek to seal the record of your conviction and should examine the date of your offense since the laws on this issue is different for some offenses that occurred before 1985.

  1. Can any felony be vacated from a criminal record? Can any misdemeanor be expunged from a record?

post3aThe short answer to both questions is “no.” Violent offenses and felonies identified as a “crime against a person” normally remain on a person’s criminal record. As far as misdemeanors, expungements are normally not allowed for DUIs or related offenses and sex offenses if you have had another conviction vacated. Whether it be a felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction, a defendant must have completed their sentence and have no pending criminal charges (and wait the specific statutory waiting period) before being eligible to have their conviction vacated from their record. As far as juvenile offenses, you may seek to seal the record after the statutory set waiting period unless your offense was a sex offense or a Class A felony or you did not pay the court ordered restitution, and there are no proceedings pending against you you and you have complied with all other requirements of the law.

  1. Does a deferred sentence automatically result in an expungement of the charge?

The short answer is again “no.” While a dismissal following a deferral is a legitimate basis to tell a prospective employer you were never convicted of the charged crime–a deferral can show up on some criminal background checks is not the equivalent to the conviction being expunged.

As a judge, I saw too many people seeking to have their convictions vacated and using the forms they obtained from the state’s form bank but not having the necessary supporting documentation. post3bAs a lawyer, I have encountered too many people that waited to get their conviction vacated when it caused a problem in their professional life and years after they could have gotten relief.

Besides the RCWs, useful information on this subject is available at GR 15 of the Washington Court Rules and the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 446-16-025 & WAC 446-16-030

So in other words, there are ways that you can erase your history from the records so to speak, but in order to do that, you need to behave in the best possible manner literally. The law doesn’t want to punish people for the sake of punishment. Rehabilitation is the most important thing in Criminal and other laws. So if you do commit a felony or a misdemeanor, there are certain rules that need to be followed if you want to be erased from the record. Be as it may, different states have different rules which is normal. In order to turn the odds on your side, you will need to make sure that you hire a good lawyer that knows the law and of course who knows the courts common practice.

Photo enforcement ticket defenses


In Washington state, photo enforcement tickets do not go on a person’s driving record. Because of this fact and the amount of the fine involved it generally makes very little sense for a person to hire a lawyer for a photo enforcement ticket.

It also makes no sense, if photo enforcement cameras are reliable and a sworn statement from the registered owner of a vehicle that they were not driving the vehicle in issue at the time of the alleged offense is a perfect defense to the charge that photo enforcement tickets are treated differently than tickets generated through traffic stops. Other jurisdictions throughout the country do not distinguish between tickets generated by cameras and tickets generated by traffic cops-and as a consequence the lawyers  often hired to contest these tickets  often exposed problems with photo enforcement tickets.

The federal government can withhold highway improvement funds for the “masking” of infractions committed by someone with a commercial drivers license (CDL). Although “masking” is undefined in federal law, a person with a CDL cannot receive a deferred finding which results in a dismissal since this would be a form of masking. For all practical purposes, a person with a CDL that commits a photo enforcement infraction has that offense masked since the offense does not appear on the person’s driving record. The reason the federal government distinguishes commercial drivers from other drivers is because a person driving a semi-truck can cause substantially more damage than a person driving a standard automobile. I believe the legislature has jeopardized federal highway funds by keeping photo enforcement tickets off commercial drivers driving records.

post2aIn Spokane, the court prohibited officers from using electronic signatures in issuing photo enforcement tickets and dismissed cases when such electronic signatures were used.

In Los Angeles, courts found that an officer could not lay a foundation for when a photo enforcement infraction occurred since that was determined by the machine that was maintained and operated by a private agency and not the police.

Although not a defense, RCW 46.63.170 states that the amount of the fine:

shall not exceed the amount of a fine issued for other parking infractions within the jurisdiction.

IRLJ 6.2 sets the maximum fine for Illegal Parking on a Roadway at $30 while many jurisdictions have maximum fines of $20 for certain parking infractions–which supports the argument that the fine shall be no more than $30 although customarily most red light photo enforcement infractions in Washington are $124.

post2bWhen I was a judge, the biggest complaint about photo enforcement tickets came from those motorists that turned right at a red light without coming to a complete stop before making the right turn (aka the California stop). The evidence to date certainly supports the argument that the presence of red light traffic cameras do promote drivers not to drive straight through intersections when a traffic light is red–and that this has resulted in a drop in serious intersection collisions. I have not seen nor heard of any study, however, that shows that California right turns cause more accidents than they prevent so instead of eliminating photo enforcement tickets the law should be modified.

As you can see, there have been a lot of pros and cons against the camera system that detects infractions. We must concur that the maximum fine or at least the common decisions should be no more than 30$. The best thing that we can do is to make sure that the cost for infractions is not high as it is in Washington and we also need to make sure that people understand the importance of these cameras. Those who usually complain about the safety cameras are those who cause infractions the most. So you can clearly see the connection between those arguments that are against those cameras. We have to understand that those cameras are there for a reason. They are set on different locations in order to control and monitor people that cause infractions. Accidents can be prevented only if we want to prevent them. Even if someone has a lot of money, the penalty for an infraction won’t do any good because that person can pay. The only thing that you can do is to take away a license or make sure that they don’t make the same mistake twice with a different punishment. But that is another story.

Court Decisions – Michigan vs Bryant

When we look at some cases in the past and some recent ones, we can look that although there might be some things that may lead to some illegality, in general, these cases are proven to be on the right track. Of course, the defense will always point out that there have been some things that can make the trial illegal or there have been some circumstances that can make an innocent man look like a monster but that is simply not true. After all, the defense’s job is to get their client to safety whether he/she is guilty or not. The decision we are talking about is a rather simple one than a complex.

post1aFirst of all Bryant was sentenced for murder because he shot a person in front of his house. The police officers testified and of course, the defense stated that the defendant has the right to Confrontation Clause. This Clause offers a possibility for defense to examine the persecutor in a cross-examination. Without this right, the testimonial of a deceased prosecutor is considered a hearsay. Or in other words, those officers who have testified were considered a form of hearsay.