Written with contribution from Sheriff David Clarke
Seattle City Councilwoman, Lisa Herbold, is making waves with a new proposal for Seattle legislation which would essentially legalize crime.
Coined “The Poverty Defense,” this possible new law was discussed on Tuesday, December 8th. The purpose of the proposal was to “excuse and dismiss” almost all misdemeanors as a means of providing legal defense for individuals in poverty, particularly those with mental disorders or addictions.
You may recognize her name from a recent piece we did on Herbold, who would go on to call 911 to report a misdemeanor offense on her home this past week.
Herbold, along with Anita Khandelwal King County’s director of the Department of Public Defense, first introduced this legislation in October earlier this year. At the time, Herbold was called out for attempting to pass the proposal off as part of the budget cycle, foregoing public discussion, or the typical process of legislation.
However, on Tuesday, she also proposed adding a legal defense to the Seattle municipal code, to provide a platform for an argument to be heard before a jury, on the basis of supplying a “basic need”. On top of this, she also added an allowance to the proposal, legalizing the reselling of stolen goods, for the purpose of raising money to supply “Basic needs”.
Seattle crime has spiked over 250 percent in 2020 following the decision by the City Council to defund law enforcement.
If approved, the ordinance could potentially dismiss, almost all misdemeanor crimes committed in Seattle, if they exhibit:
- Symptoms of addiction
- Symptoms of a mental disorder
Offenses covered by the legislation would include every crime below the level of a felony, excluding DUI’s or domestic violence.
Former mayoral Public Safety Advisor, Scott Lindsay, told KOMO News, “It’s a green light for crime. If you are engaged in 100 different misdemeanors, that are in our criminal justice system code, you are not going to be held liable. You are not going to be held accountable.” According to Lindsay, “Seattle police made approximately 12,000 non- DUI/ DV misdemeanor arrests (two-thirds of all SPD arrests). The City Attorney charged 5,421 of those cases in Seattle Municipal court (the rest were declined by the city attorney for a variety of reasons).
“The 2019 charged cases included 1,850 theft cases, 1,345 assault cases, 816 trespass cases, and 473 arrest cases. In total, last year Seattle Municipal court saw cases charged under 108 different Seattle criminal codes (eg. stalking, cyberstalking, sexual exploitation, animal abuse, unlawful carrying of a pistol, indecent exposure, etc.).”
Lindsay continued, “The legislation proposes that any perpetrator with a credible claim of behavioral health symptoms anything from drug use to depression, would effectively have blanket immunity from prosecution for misdemeanor assault, theft, harassment, trespass, stalking, car prowl, and 100 other Seattle criminal laws.”
Pete Holmes, Seattle City Attorney, showed support in a letter written to the council. He said, “I have worked to move the City Attorney’s office away from prosecuting property crimes that appeared to be committed out of survival necessity.”
All of this is anathema to a crime reduction strategy called Broken Windows policing that focuses on order maintenance through preventing and stopping lesser crimes. The result is that it led to record decreases in violent crime.
Several locals have also made it a point to voice their opinion on the proposed legislation, and many are ostensibly upset. One such individual wrote to the council, “If CM Herbold’s proposed legislation is allowed to pass, I believe that all of the Anarchy that’s happening down here will be condoned by the City of Seattle, and the actual number of crimes will skyrocket through the roof.”
Another local resident and business owner of the Georgetown neighborhood wrote, to the city council, “CM Herbold’s proposed legislation is just looking the other way. The city is in a BIG hole and this is just digging it deeper with seemingly no way out. If you think this action makes Seattle kinder and gentler, you are wrong.”
The Council has not taken action on the proposal, but they are expected to discuss it again in January.