A prosecutor in Seattle, Washington, is warning against a Democrat-backed state bill that could make it easier for criminal offenders to avoid convictions, according to KOMO News, a local outlet.
House Bill 1994 would allow any defendant charged with a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor to request a freeze in their prosecution if they can meet the conditions of treatment plans or other similar deals reached between the defendant and the judge, according to its text. Ann Davison, a prosecutor in deep-blue Seattle, is speaking out against the bill aggressively, saying that it would threaten justice for victims of serious crimes while undermining prosecutorial discretion, according to KOMO News.
Crimes covered under the bill would include assault, stalking, harassment, “assault with sexual motivation,” firearms offenses, hit-and-run and the first instance of driving under the influence, among others, according to KOMO News. Eight Democratic state representatives sponsored the bill.
“The defense is to represent the accused, and the court is to be the neutral decider,” Davison told KOMO News. “This house bill takes away the prosecutor’s discretion. Neither the court, nor defense council, nor the prosecutor alone can do such an act like this.”
Under the bill’s provisions, if a defendant in a misdemeanor or gross misdemeanor case “has made meaningful progress towards complying with the imposed terms and conditions, either at the end of or at any point during the continuance period, the court shall dismiss the charges pending against the defendant,” according to the bill’s text.
Like many cities, Seattle has seen a significant surge in crime following the unrest that swept the country in the summer of 2020. The city was an epicenter for violent rioting and anti-police demonstrations that summer, and city officials moved to reduce the police budget by 17% that year after pledging a 50% reduction, according to the Seattle Times.
“In 2023, my office charged over 1,700 assault cases,” Davison previously wrote to state legislators. “If this bill went into law, virtually every one of those defendants would move to have their case frozen in dispositional continuance status. Justice in those cases would be both delayed and denied, by design.”
In 2023, the city recorded a 19% increase in shootings relative to the year prior, which was the worst year for the city in terms of homicides in 25 years, according to The Seattle Times. Statewide, murders have jumped by 89% relative to before the pandemic.
Davison, a moderate Republican, was elected to be the city attorney over an opponent who was expressly in favor of abolishing the police and prisons, according to The Associated Press. She ran a campaign that emphasized the importance of law and order, while her main opponent had described people who destroy public property as “heroes,” according to The Washington Post.
Democratic Washington Gov. Jay Inslee did not respond immediately to a request for comment regarding his thoughts on the bill or whether he would veto it if it arrived on his desk in its current form.
Nick Pope on January 10, 2024