Recent Police Shootings May Cause Change in Washington Law

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Jul 25

Lewis & Laws

Recent Police Shootings May Cause Change in Washington Law

by Lewis & Laws

Recent Police Shootings May Cause Change in Washington Law

The state of Washington currently has a law on the books which makes it almost impossible to charge a police officer with a wrongful killing, regardless of whether the officer improperly used deadly force. The law has been in legislative gridlock for years, despite a continuing string of police shootings. In December 2017, advocates collected enough signatures to place before the legislature an initiative changing the current use of force law.

Because the Washington State Legislature was expected to languish in inaction regarding the initiative, community advocates and law enforcement groups worked together to reach a compromise to keep the issue off upcoming ballots.  The deal would have lawmakers approve Initiative 940, although a separate bill (House Bill 3003) amending the language of the initiative would accompany I-940. Passage of the bill would require a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.

No Charges if Officers Act Without Malice and in Good Faith

As the current law stands, a police officer cannot be convicted of a crime for the use of deadly force, so long as the officer acted without malice and in good faith. The new law would be more detailed regarding the threshold of “good faith,” which takes into consideration what a “reasonable” law enforcement officer would have done under the same circumstances. The new law would also look at the intentions of the police officer to determine if “good faith” was present and would mandate additional de-escalation and mental health training for officers.  

Verbiage Changes to Proposed New Law

The new law would also remove the word “malice” from the law as it applies to deadly force and would provide a new definition for “good faith,” making the good faith test much more “workable.”  Although there remain some police groups in the state which refuse to back the new bill, the Fraternal Order of Police supports the bill.

Number of Police Shootings in Washington Continues to Rise

According to a 2015 report in the Seattle Times, between the years of 2005 and 2014, 213 people in the state of Washington were killed by police, yet only one police officer was criminally charged. In this particular case, the police officer fatally shot an inebriated man in 2009 through the rear window of the man’s car.

Although charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter, the police officer was acquitted by a jury. It is possible that legislators could pass an “altered” version of the initiative, sending both proposals to ballot, however, under the proposed deal, lawmakers would approve the initiative, later passing the bill with amendments in the form of the agreed-upon changes.

How a Seattle Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Those Charged with Killing Another Person

Most of the murder defense trials we see on television or in movies are actually quite different from the real thing. Taking the life of another person, whether deliberately or accidentally, can lead to very serious charges, with an outcome of life in prison.

For this reason, if you find yourself facing murder or manslaughter charges in Seattle, it is imperative that you speak to an experienced Seattle criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible. Your Seattle criminal defense attorney will listen carefully to you as you detail the facts behind the charges, then will ensure your rights are protected and you are not subjected to an unfair trial.

You are innocent until proven guilty, but unless you have a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in your corner, you may not be treated as though you are innocent until the facts prove otherwise. Having a highly skilled Seattle criminal defense attorney by your side can truly make the difference in the outcome of your charges.

Have you or someone you love been arrested and charged with a violent crime? Contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Lewis & Laws, PLLC.

If you have been charged with a violent crime in Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Everett, or anywhere in the state of Washington, a Seattle criminal defense lawyer can protect your rights. Let the expert defense team at Lewis & Laws, PLLC fight aggressively for you and your future. Our lawyers have successfully defended clients in Seattle, Bellevue, and Kirkland. Contact us today at 206.209.0608 or fill out our online contact form to get more information or to get a free case review!

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