Stories from the ACLU of Washington

Published: 
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Last session, state lawmakers responded to a series of tragic police shootings by putting on the ballot a constitutional amendment to give judges expanded authority to deny bail for criminal defendants. If Washington voters approve the amendment this November, it will amend our Constitution for the first time in more than 20 years. Thanks to TV crime shows, we all more or less know what bail is—a person who has been arrested can give a certain amount of money to the court in order to be released from jail while awaiting trial. If he shows up to court as required, he gets his bail back, even if he’s eventually found guilty. If he “skips bail,” the court keeps the money. What the TV shows don’t talk about, however, is why we have a bail system in the first place. Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
This is not an isolated incident. The Seattle Police Department has a long history of allowing jaywalking citations to escalate into use of force situations. The pattern is very predictable:  The officer sees a jaywalker, orders the person to come to him, gets angry when the jaywalker either doesn’t respond or argues, and ends up either in a physical confrontation or an arrest for an obstruction charge or both. Read more
Published: 
Monday, June 14, 2010
Last Thursday, a new law that improves qualifying patients' access to medical marijuana went into effect.  Sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36), SB 5798 expands the list of health care professionals who can authorize the medical use of cannabis under state law.  The new list includes all providers who are currently authorized to prescribe medications such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners.  Only two other states, New Mexico and Rhode Island, grant this authorization power to all health care professionals who can prescribe.  As Sen. Kohl-Welles explains, "This bill will provide real relief to those who are suffering, particularly those who live in rural areas and low-income individuals who typically see advanced nurse practitioners rather than MDs. Providing this relief honors the will of the voters who overwhelmingly approved the medical-marijuana initiative in 1998." A more detailed explanation of the law, which also includes new requirements for patients' written authorizations, can be found on Page 3 of the Summer 2010 issue of the West Coast Leaf.  Also, ACLU of Washington has updated its web page, "A Guide to Washington's Medical Marijuana Law," to reflect the changes.  The web page also includes an informational brochure that can be downloaded for printing and a revised form that health care professionals can use for authorizations.
Published: 
Friday, June 11, 2010
A recent study confirms that despite a 1986 U.S. Supreme Court ruling outlawing racial bias in jury selection, the problem remains rampant in the South. But did you know that the problem has been raised repeatedly in cases in Washington State too? Read more
Published: 
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Government surveillance of political activists without any suspicion of wrongdoing is unfortunately all too familiar, but recent events and evidence show that the problem is increasingly widespread. The ACLU-WA is working to keep its fingers on the pulse of the surveillance state and ensure that laws and policies are in place to safeguard our civil liberties. To help you see the big picture, we’ve created a new feature on our website highlighting what we've learned so far. Read more
Published: 
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The focus of investigations of gang activity should be on actual criminal acts, not on whether an individual “belongs to” a gang—the label is a distraction rather than a useful tool. Allocating our scarce law enforcement resources on the basis of whether someone looks like a gang member, rather than whether we think someone has committed a crime, virtually guarantees that we will get no closer to solving the issue of gang violence. 
Published: 
Friday, June 4, 2010
In passing the Healthy Youth Act in 2007, Washington’s legislature affirmed that our youth need comprehensive and accurate sex education. It is now up to all of us to make sure that the spirit of the law is honored in our communities; by doing this, we can take a large step toward protecting the reproductive health of our youth. Read more
Published: 
Friday, June 4, 2010
With 5% of the world's population, the United States today boasts 25% of its prison population. Despite declining crime rates in the last three decades (even in the midst of our current recession), rates of incarceration in the U.S. have been stunning. The Economist recently called this trend "a disgrace."   Read more
Published: 
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Law enforcement agencies around the country and across the state have a powerful new tool to effortlessly identify and track you while you drive, and it is a real threat to your privacy. In other words, the cops want to data-mine your driving habits.
Published: 
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Yesterday, we got word that Seattle’s aggressive panhandling ordinance has officially died—the city council was unable to overturn Mayor McGinn’s veto. The action came after pressure from the ACLU of Washington, Real Change News, and various other community organizations. The groups opposed the proposed law as an unnecessary measure – Seattle already has a law against “aggressive panhandling” – that scapegoated homeless people rather than addressing real problems of public.  If enforced, the measure likely would lead to more poor people being thrown into the criminal justice system after they are unable to pay fines.

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