Blake Decision’s effect on Superior Court largely unknown at this point, judge says

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The Blake decision saddled both the Thurston County prosecutor’s office and office of public defense with a large workload, but it’s not known quite yet how the sweeping decision will affect Thurston County Superior Court.

Judge James Dixon, in a briefing with the board of county commissioners this afternoon, said nothing much has changed for the court since the decision came down from the State Supreme Court in February. But, he added, that will change sometime in the future.

“As I sit here, I can’t give you an understanding of what that load looks like. Is that going to be 50 cases a week or is it going to be five cases a week for the next eight months? I don’t know and I don’t think the offices at this point know that either,” said Dixon.

Essentially, the decision makes state law regarding drug possession that has been on the books since 1971 unconstitutional. State law put the burden of proof on the defendant to prove they didn’t knowingly possess drugs — an inverse of the standard of “innocent until proven guilty.”

By reversing that code, all people on the hook for simple possession charges are finding their cases dropped, and anyone who’s been convicted of such a crime in the last five decades are eligible to have that part of their record expunged — not to mention compensation for any fees and fines they had to pay. The decision does not expunge cases involving manufacturing or dealing drugs.

The decision has caused sweeping changes within local justice systems. In Thurston County, a bulk of the work has fallen to the Thurston County Prosecutor’s Office and Office of Public Defense to identify people affected by the now-defunct law. Eventually, many of those cases will be brought back before the superior court.

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