In 2021, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that laws penalizing drug possession, including cannabis, were unconstitutional, making all convictions eligible for annulment. State officials have now started to allocate nearly 100 million dollars for the refund of fines, court costs, and legal fees. They have also launched a website where eligible individuals can apply for their money back.
State officials plan to begin the process of refunding money to hundreds of thousands of residents with prior convictions for possession of cannabis and other controlled substances.
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Supreme Court Rules Washington Laws Unconstitutional
In 2021, the Supreme Court in the state of Washington ruled that laws penalizing drug possession were unconstitutional and void.
As a result of this ruling, known as “State v. Blake,” all convictions related to possession of cannabis are eligible for annulment and removal from the criminal record, and all costs associated with them qualify for a refund.
Ruling Pertains to 200k Drug Possession Charges
According to a press release issued on July 31 by the Administrative Office of the Washington Courts, “the ruling in the case of State v. Blake pertains to an estimated 200,000 drug possession charges under criminal law, dating back to the 1970s, plus an additional estimated 125,000 convictions for possession of cannabis qualifying for annulment.”
Washington State officials have set aside nearly 100 million dollars for the refund of fines, court costs, and legal fees associated with these earlier convictions.
Washington Launches Website to Help Claim Refunds
In addition, Washington State has launched a website where eligible individuals can apply for a refund.
“The goal of the new website is to create a process that is easy to understand and will provide a quick response for people seeking a refund of money,” said Sharon Swanson, the manager of the Administrative Office of the Washington Courts. “Citizens will be able to search for their cases by entering their first and last name or case number.”
On the main page of the site we read: “If you have a criminal record associated with the Blake ruling, you must first annul the conviction and determine eligibility for a refund through the Washington state district court or courts in which you were convicted. After annulling the conviction and finding your record online, you are ready to apply for a refund of incurred costs online or by mail.”
2019 Law on Annulment
In 2019, Democratic Governor Jay Inslee signed a law stating: “Any person convicted for possession of cannabis under criminal law, who was 21 years of age or older at the time of the offense, may apply to the court for an annulment of the conviction record for the offense. […] If the applicant qualifies under this subsection, the court annuls the conviction record.” Washington legalized possession of cannabis for adults in 2012.
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