Satterberg Statement on WA Supreme Court Ruling

Today, King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg released the following statement after the Washington State Supreme Court declared RCW 69.50.4013 unconstitutional.

Today’s State Supreme Court decision ruled that the state statute prohibiting the simple possession of controlled substances is unconstitutional. We are analyzing the impacts and potential retroactive application of this decision.

While there will be a significant amount of work necessary to comply with this ruling in the courthouses throughout the state, it is equally important that the Legislature take steps now to amend this statute to correct the defect found by the Supreme Court. The Legislature should act with a sense of urgency to add the necessary elements to make this statute constitutional this session, and not leave a defective statute on the books.

The drug cases we prosecute each week are focused on people dealing drugs in King County, and we file charges almost exclusively against people with repeat criminal behavior or a history of violence.

We know that treatment is the answer to substance use disorder and the overdose crisis we face today. In King County, we haven’t prosecuted anyone caught in possession of less than a gram of any drug since 2018. The court system is not set up to help individuals caught with tiny amounts of drugs. It certainly is not a conduit to treatment as we currently structure and fund it.

Today we heard an update about our overdose crisis in King County — a record number of people died from drug overdoses in 2020, and the pace continues this year. We should adopt and fund strategies to treat addiction as the medical issue that it is.

A blog from King County’s elected Prosecutor, Dan Satterberg.