As attorneys, we always pay close attention to any new laws being passed in Washington State, especially when they can potentially affect the lives of the people we help. Nine new laws that were passed in Washington last year go into effect now, in 2022. While many of the news laws concern civil matters such as new home foreclosure laws and laws on nonprofits, several laws either directly or indirectly involve criminal conduct.
HB 1140 – The right of juveniles to have legal representation
HB 1140 provides that when law enforcement officers communicate with a juvenile, they must provide the juvenile with access to a lawyer; “This includes when an officer questions a juvenile during a custodial interrogation, when a juvenile is detained for possible involvement in criminal activity, and when a juvenile allows a law enforcement officer to search their property, home or vehicle.”
The access can be by phone or video, or in person, and must be provided before the juvenile suspect waives any “constitutional rights.” This new bill is part of the overall goal of juvenile justice reform, and it is a VERY big deal, and it will have wide-ranging implications. As the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explains:
The law is informed by research that shows youth don’t fully comprehend their rights or understand the consequences of waiving them, making them particularly vulnerable to coercive police tactics. Some studies show that youth waive their Miranda rights at rates as high as 90 percent.
The law will also help to address the profound racial disproportionalities in our criminal legal system. Black youth, Indigenous youth, and youth of color are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated at much higher rates than white youth in Washington state. Black youth are almost four times more likely to be adjudicated than would be expected based on the youth population of Washington.
“This legislation means youth who are scared, confused and vulnerable when stopped by police will receive critical legal advice,” said Anita Khandelwal, director of the King County Department of Public Defense. “Studies show that youth don’t fully understand the consequences of waiving their rights. The protections this bill puts in place are essential in ensuring our youth are treated fairly.”
HB 1399- Reducing the barriers that people who have prior convictions face when applying for a professional license
HB 1399 makes it easier for people applying for professional licenses to obtain those licenses if they have a prior criminal record. The new law provides that if the applicant’s prior criminal record does not directly relate to the career, business, or trade they’re seeking the license for, then their prior criminal record should not prevent the applicant from obtaining that professional license. The new Washington law provides that a preliminary determination will be made as to whether the applicant’s criminal record makes the applicant ineligible for the license they seek to have approved.
This is a really important bill, and one that we are thrilled to see signed into law. For years, people who have paid their debts to society have been denied a chance at a new life because of employment barriers, which increases the rate of recidivism. The Certificate of Restoration of Opportunities Act (CROP Act) was passed unanimously by the Washington State House and Senate, and signed by Governor Inslee.
HB 1078 – Convicted felons will now automatically be eligible to vote
Of all the new laws that passed, this one is the law we are happiest to see. HB 1078 provides that all convicted felons who are not currently “serving a sentence of total confinement” will have their right to vote automatically (instead of provisionally) restored. If you have been released from prison, you should be automatically eligible to vote. Eligibility means that your right to vote is restored.
The right to make your voice heard is enshrined in the Constitution. For too long, people have had this right denied, even after they have done their time and repaid their debt. You will still need to re-register to vote, however. You can find information about eligibility and registration here.
BONUS BILL: HB 1416 – The requirement that insurers must report all claims to the Division of Child Support (DCS)
HB 1416 requires that insurance companies “must share information with the division of child support to see if a claimant has debts with the state for supporting a child.” Specifically, the insurance company must contact the state child support office within 10 days after a wrongful death, tort liability claim, workers’ compensation claim, or a life insurance policy claim is filed. If the DCS finds that a claimant owes child support, it can place a lien on the claim, to ensure that the back child support is paid.
While we understand the theoretical benefits of this law, we do have some concerns – largely, that insurance claims designed to help someone who has suffered a serious injury (at work or not) may reduce the injured person’s ability to car for him or herself in the future. Paying back child support is critically important, yes – but if the award is diverted, the injured person may face challenges seeking additional medical treatments or paying for his or her home, which will likely result in that person falling behind in child support once again. Only time with tell whether this new law creates a vicious circle.
At Philbrook Law Office, our Vancouver and Battle Ground, WA criminal defense lawyers understand the broad range of federal and state criminal laws. We understand felony charges, misdemeanor charges, traffic charges, and any other type of violation that can result in imprisonment, loss of driving privileges, and serious offenses. Our lawyers are skilled at seeking dismissals of charges, asserting your defenses before a jury, and negotiating plea bargains. We represent defendants from the arrest and bail hearing through hearings and trials.