Big news out of Washington State!
In 2021, the Washington State Supreme Court ruled that Washington’s law regarding simple drug possession was unconstitutional in the case State v. Blake, 197 Wn.2d 170, 481 P.3d 521 (2021). The impact of this is extremely significant. It invalidated all convictions for simple drug possession going back to the 1970s. As a result, anyone that was convicted of simple drug possession is eligible to vacate that drug possession charge regardless of how many other convictions they have or when the other convictions occurred. They could have been convicted of drug possession two years ago and then convicted of theft yesterday, and they would still be eligible to vacate the drug possession charge; no waiting time.
Here is the kicker… these individuals are also entitled to a refund of all fines, costs, charges, assessments and/or interest that they were ordered to pay, except any separate civil judgment(s).
Sound too good to be true? Check this out: Earlier this week, our firm received a refund check from a court clerk for one of our client’s in the amount of $2,610.00. After this refund, the net result is that he only ended up paying us less than $300 to (a) vacate his conviction, and (b) restore his firearm rights. For another client, we just received the order confirming that the amount of their refund will be $1,986.30. Not everyone will be entitled to a refund. These past results for clients are not an indication of any future outcome. Each case is fact specific. That being said, this is a pretty big deal if this specific scenario presents itself!
Related content: How to Restore Your Firearm Rights in Washington
Not everyone is eligible and there are a few key points to stress and advise individuals of:
- This only applies if the client was only convicted of simple drug possession based on the Revised Code of Washington (“RCW”) 69.50.4013 or one of its predecessor statutes:
- RCW 69.50.4013 ‑ post July 1, 2004
- RCW 69.50.401(d) from March 21, 1979 until June 30, 2004
- RCW 69.50.401(c) from May 21, 1971 through March 20, 1979
- If they were convicted of possession with intent to distribute, then this does not apply.
- If they were convicted of possession along with some other charge(s) at the same time, then they might not be entitled to a refund depending on how the court categorized it and we would need to research it further.
- If they were convicted under a local municipal code (city or county code rather than the RCW code above), then this might not apply and we will need to examine the specific language of the municipal code that they were convicted under.
- If the person has unpaid or past due legal financial obligations from another conviction that is unaffected by the decision in State v. Blake, then it is possible that the refund that they would be entitled to would be reallocated to those liabilities rather than being refunded directly to the client.
The fastest way to find out if you qualify under the new law is to give us or another Washington licensed attorney a call. We might be able to perform a quick search to determine whether or not you are eligible to vacate a conviction pursuant to State v. Blake.