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Archive for the ‘Law’ Category

Crime charges in WA courts at 12-year low; recidivism holds

by Matt Rosenberg August 20th, 2013

Total cases filed by prosecutors in Washington state’s criminal courts reached a new low in 2012 compared to the 11 years prior, but the rate at which charged individuals released to the community experience “recidivism” – or being criminally charged again within three years – has continued to hold steady since 2001. It’s been about 50 percent for individuals with domestic violence or “DV” charges classified as current; and about 40 percent for those with older charges of DV or other crimes. The findings come in a new report from the government-funded Washington State Institute for Public Policy. The study explains that charges rather than convictions are used as a leading indicator of recidivism in the comparison groups because in instances of alleged domestic violence, victims often decide not to press the case even if the crime may very likely have occurred.

From Recidivism Trends of Domestic Violence Offenders in Washington State, WSIPP, Aug. 2013

A related WSIPP report issued earlier this year which surveyed the current scientific literature reaffirmed there is no lowering of DV recidivism rates resulting from state’s mandated emphasis on treating DV offenders through the so-called “Duluth model.” That approach accents the causative roles of gender, and social and historical constructs. WSIPP did find research showing that other practices which cut recidivism in the general offender population may also help Washington DV offenders avoid new charges, but that focused in-state tests are needed to better document potential.

Criminal charges at 12-year low
The new report starts out by accenting that total misdemeanor and felony criminal cases filed in Washington local and county courts numbered just 181,985 in 2012 – less than the 2001 low of 187,222 within the 12-year period covered. Nearly four-fifths, or 78 percent of the criminal cases filed in 2012 were misdemeanors, the rest felonies. That divide has held steady since at least 2001.

The per capita rate of non-domestic violence criminal cases filed per 1,000 residents has dropped from just under 35 in 2001 to just under 30 in 2011 while the rate of domestic violence cases filed has held relatively steady over that time at between seven and eight per 1,000.

DV offenders charged more often; and at higher risk for violence
Compared to those actually convicted of non-domestic violence felonies or misdemeanors, current or prior domestic violence offenders in the 2008 cohort were charged with crimes more than twice as often. By a factor of four they were more likely to have earned a high risk classification for violence, according to the WSIPP report.

2001 to 2008 recidivism trends in WA
Charge-based recidivism rates have held relatively steady since 2001. A graph in the report (below, left) shows that from 2001 through 2008 steadily half of individuals with a current DV charge have had some sort of criminal charge filed against them again with three years, versus more than 40 percent for those with older charges of DV or other crimes. When subsequent convictions within three years of a charge are used as the recidivism measure, the rates tend to drop six to eight points based on 2008 data in the WSIPP study.

Domestic violence is defined as “acts or threats of physical harm, sexual assault, or stalking by one household or family member against another…” Because it takes three years to assess whether a released offender will be charged again with a criminal offense, for the purpose of calculating recidivism rates, there is a lag in the data. The most recent year for which the rates are reported in the WSIPP study is 2008, which includes charges filed through 2011 against offenders released in 2008.

From Recidivism Trends of Domestic Violence Offenders in Washington State, WSIPP, Aug. 2013

“Duluth” treatments in WA ineffective
In a related study published in January of this year, WSIPP synthesized the literature of domestic violence or “DV” prevention and surveyed treatments used in other states. The institute reaffirmed earlier findings that Washington’s “Duluth model” for treatment – which emphasizes the crime category is “a gender-specific behavior which is socially and historically constructed” – has no effect on recidivism.

Other approaches show promise
The January 2013 WSIPP study did identify several other approaches to treating domestic violence that in earlier targeted studies cut DV recidivism by an average of one-third but the methods. These included relationship counseling, “cognitive behavioral therapy,” couples therapy and drug and alcohol treatment. Such approaches would have to be tested specifically in Washington State to assess impacts on DV recidivism, WSIPP cautioned.


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Ex-software manager deported in Seattle sex sting plea deal

by Matt Rosenberg August 15th, 2013

In a King County Superior Court plea deal settled August 1 a former Amazon.com software development manager from India named Vishwastam Shukla – who according to his attorney was a rising star at the Seattle company but has lost his job and “most everything” in connection with his crime – agreed to permanent banishment from the United States in return for reduction of charges from felony to gross misdemeanor in an online sex sting. It involved a Seattle Police detective posing as an apparent 15-year-old prostitute on craigslist, and a planned sex-for-money interlude at the Seattle Hyatt while Shukla was in town on company business, from the San Jose, Calif. Amazon unit he headed. He supervised eight other workers. Following the recent court actions Shukla was to have boarded a plane back to India August 3, and had to pay a $5,000 fine. His return to India is to be verified to the court in a hearing scheduled for August 21.

King County DUI plea deal with Renton driver accents recent U.S. high court constraints on blood alcohol tests

by Matt Rosenberg July 16th, 2013

Because of an April U.S. Supreme Court ruling normally barring consideration of blood alcohol tests done without search warrants, says a King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office official, a 20-year-old Renton woman who ran into a man in a wheelchair at a crosswalk and who had levels of alcohol and marijuana in her blood that exceeded legal limits, got off last Friday with misdemeanor convictions and related sentences rather than facing the original felony charges. On July 12 at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent, King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas finalized a plea deal between the county and attorneys for defendant Emily Sue Falkenstein resulting in her conviction on misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence and reckless endangerment rather than the original felony charges of vehicular assault and felony reckless endangerment. That’s directly because prosecutors were unable to use blood tests taken shortly afterward due to the April high court ruling in the case of Missouri v. McNeely, said Ian Goodhew, Deputy Chief of Staff to King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg.

Wedgwood man sentenced; sought sex with “girl,” 13

by Matt Rosenberg July 12th, 2013

A 55-year-old lawn service owner from Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood this week in King County Superior Court pled guilty to a felony sex offense and was sentenced to nearly a year in jail. After police noticed his online post in the “Casual Encounters” section of Craigslist seeking sex with a mother and daughter, a detective responded, posing as the father of a 13-year-old girl “who wants to experience sex with older men.” A series of email exchanges ensued in which the age of the fictitious girl was underscored and the suspect made clear that he understood that, and wanted have regular, oral and anal sex with her. A meet-up was arranged at the Edgewater Hotel, 2411 Alaskan Way on Seattle’s downtown waterfront.

KIng County audit hastens fix pledges on accident pay-outs

by Matt Rosenberg July 9th, 2013

King County could do far better controlling public risk and related liability pay-outs in negligence cases, especially those related to Metro Transit and other transportation functions, according to a recent and wholly overlooked report from the King County Auditor’s Office. It accents “critical weaknesses” in current risk control strategies. These include baked-in lowballing of the real risk bill to county taxpayers due to ignoring workers compensation costs in taxpayer-funded tort liability settlements; and lack of an overall risk control system including thorough accident data tracking and related performance standards. Another shortcoming is insufficient driver safety training, the audit finds.

Outside of transportation, the audit says the county “will continue to face compliance and claims risks” because of its sub-par system for responding to public records requests, and that it must speed efforts to implement risk controls around incidences of excessive force by the King County Sheriff’s office, and cyber-secuirty vulnerabilities. Top officials say they’re implementing some changes already, and more are to come.

UW Expert: WA Legal Pot Requires Public Health Vigilance

by Matt Rosenberg June 17th, 2013

Voter-approved legalization of marijuana last fall in Washington state via I-502 may well improve regulation, oversight, social justice outcomes and revenue collection around use of the drug, but at the same time will warrant ongoing scrutiny for potential public health problems, particularly among the young, according to a new paper published by a University of Washington drug addiction expert in the journal Frontiers of Psychiatry.

WA Supremes OK car search in JeffCo meth conviction

by Matt Rosenberg May 31st, 2013

The Washington State Supreme Court in a ruling issued May 30 upheld the right of police under certain conditions to search a vehicle for inventory prior to a tow-away and for resulting evidence to be used in a drug possession prosecution. The case in question involved a Jefferson County Superior Court conviction for possession of methamphetamine of a driver who lacked a license and was driving the car of his jailed girlfriend.

12 surgeries for Renton DUI victim; perp gets 6 months

by Matt Rosenberg May 9th, 2013

When Garrett A. Bakken last July was charged with the felony DUI offense of vehicular assault after veering off Lake Washington Boulevard in Renton, Wash. and slamming into a pedestrian on a pathway, the story garnered coverage from local television and online news outlets and even made the New York Daily News. According to court files, Bakken’s blood alcohol level was nearly two-and-a-half-times the legal limit, and he initially drove away after the impact. At first, the victim’s identity was unknown. Last week on Friday May 3 to no fanfare Bakken, following an earlier plea agreement, was issued by King County Superior Court Judge Andrea Darvas a “standard range” sentence on the charge for a first-time felony offender: six months work release. Starting later this month the Renton man, 28, will go each weekday to work but spend nights and weekends in county custody until nearly Thanksgiving. For the victim, however, life is nowhere near its “standard range” prior to the accident.