Supreme Court decision could cost Grays Harbor “millions of dollars”

The impact of a recent state Supreme Court ruling that voids Washington’s simple possession of a controlled substance statute has already been felt locally, and the Department of Corrections says it may have further implications for sentences imposed by the courts.

On February 25, 2021 the Washington State Supreme Court issued an opinion in State of Washington v. Blake (pdf), declaring that RCW 69.50.4013 (Washington’s simple possession of a controlled substance statute) violates the due process clause of the state and federal constitutions and is therefore void.

Locally, Grays Harbor County Prosecutor Norma Tillotson spoke to the Grays Harbor County Commissioners saying that in addition to reversing the convictions, it will also mean any fees received will need to be returned.

Based on the Supreme Court opinion, this would retroactively include cases going back decades.

Tillotson says that this could have major impacts on the local budget.

According to the Prosecutor, the county has already addressed any current inmates in the county jail for simple possession charges.

In a release, the Department of Corrections says that according to their estimates as of February 28, there were fewer than 100 people statewide who are incarcerated only on a simple possession conviction, and less than 7,000 people statewide have been sentenced to community supervision on a simple possession conviction. 

The DOC states in their release that their role is to carry out sentences imposed by courts, and they do not have the authority to amend or correct judgments and sentences. 

This means that further direction from the courts will be necessary in the process of determining next steps.