Gov. Jay Inslee has signed commutations for 13 individuals convicted of drug possession charges under a law that was recently struck down by the Washington State Supreme Court. Those individuals have been released from Department of Corrections custody.
More commutations are expected in response to petitions from incarcerated individuals, with the governor planning to sign at least two more today. Last week, Inslee offered unconditional commutations to individuals remaining in Department of Corrections (DOC) custody solely on simple drug possession convictions.
In February, the court struck down a portion of state law that makes simple drug possession a crime. A majority of justices said the law was unconstitutional because it did not require prosecutors prove a suspect knowingly or intentionally possessed contraband. The court’s decision essentially invalidated the statute that was the basis for the criminal convictions and related sentences for numerous individuals, including many in DOC custody in state prisons solely for these now-invalidated drug possession convictions.
While prosecutors and the courts have worked to vacate the convictions of individuals convicted and sentenced under this now-invalidated drug possession statute, the governor has endeavored to use his clemency authority to expeditiously facilitate a more immediate release for other individuals in custody solely on these convictions.