In what can only be described as turning morality on its head, a Seattle council member has introduced legislation that could allow courts to dismiss misdemeanor crimes, such as theft and assault, that were committed because of poverty or while a person was experiencing symptoms of a mental illness or substance abuse, reports the Seattle Times.
Introduced by city Council member Lisa Herbold in late October, the legislation is a continuation of the cities “woke” social justice efforts in the wake of the George Floyd police encounter. With the bill crafted under the label “poverty defense,” its defenders say that it aims to ease the burden of usual court rulings on lower income residents but has some worried it will pave the way for crimes like assault, harassment, communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, and more, to go unpunished.
“I think when you’re talking about folks who are committing offenses to survive or because of underlying mental-health or substance-use issues, incarceration does not have the deterrent effect people believe it has,” Herbold said.
King County Director of Public Defense Anita Khandelwal, when defending the bill, used the example of someone without shoes stealing a pair from Goodwill and explained an attorney could acquit the thieve of wrong doing on the basis that they didn’t own a personal pair of shoes before the crime.
A similar example would be a person guilty of a carjacking being acquitted of the crime based on the fact they did not own a car because they could not afford one.
From the Seattle Times:
Drunk or high driving and domestic-violence assault are carved out as exceptions in the bill, but what’s left in has been troubling to some who point to misdemeanors like non-domestic assault, harassment, communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and more.
In a statement published Friday, police- reform group Mothers for Police Accountability worried that a person committing assault would be acquitted “by simply asserting that they were suffering from anxiety or depression or the ‘triggering’ of some past trauma or some other symptom of a mental disorder, including alcoholism and addiction.”
Some also expressed concern about what would then happen once people with behavioral health issues were back on the street, and criticized the idea for lacking a plan to then address the behavioral health and economic issues at the root of people’s behavior.
University’s Crime & Justice Research Center director Jacqueline Helfgott says the bill could have a huge impact on public safety, likening the effect to decriminalizing up to 90% of misdemeanor crimes in Seattle if attorneys follow the bill strictly.
Seattle police, who have seen their departments become the target of the leftist movement to “defund the police,” have come out against the bill, saying it would “endanger the safety and rights of all people of Seattle.”
“Seattle Police Department officers will continue to focus on holding individuals accountable who commit one of the thousands of assaults or thefts that occur in our community each year,” a statement from the city’s police force reads.
After first being introduced in October, the bill was tabled over a budget process but it is expected to come back up for consideration over the winter.
The leftist force behind the bill
Behind the push for this piece of legislation, which couldn’t come at a worse time for Seattle residents as homicides in the city have recently climbed to their highest level in more than a decade, is the leftist organization called Decriminalize Seattle that opposes policing and the criminal legal system.
As Judicial Watch reports:
The group has called for defunding the Seattle Police Department by at least 50% and reallocating the funds to “community led health and safety systems.” It also demands the release of protestors arrested during recent violent uprising without charges. An organizer with Decriminalize Seattle, identified as one of the law’s catalysts in the media, says “what we’ve already known is that the misdemeanor system is basically a system of cycling people in poverty through municipal court over and over again without meeting their basic needs.”
This is yet another example of the city falling under pressure from radical left wing organizations.
When signing off on the city’s 2021 budget, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan slashed the SPD’s budget by nearly 20% and diverted the funding into “community spending” which King 5 news reports was a hat tip to the “defund the police” movement but ended up disappointing activists who said it was not enough.
Council member Lisa Herbold’s lax stance on law enforcement is being highlighted after she reportedly called the police after someone threw a rock at her house on Dec. 11.
Herbold reportedly told police that “she was on the west side of the living room near the kitchen when she heard a loud noise that sounded like a gunshot and dove into the kitchen for cover.”
How ironic that she would want this person punished but is promoting the idea that if a crime was committed, the potential criminal could be allowed to walk scot-free if they were acting on their poverty or mental ill-ness. How inconsiderate of her …