The main battle between federal and state laws in Washington in recent years has centered around the state's marijuana laws, which conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. That appears to have been resolved for the moment with the U.S. Attorney General stating that the government will not pursue marijuana users or sellers in states like Washington where it is legal.
But there are other times when Washington laws conflict with policies in other states - like with immigration. While some states allow law enforcement to question people about their immigration status, this inquiries are usually limited to certain circumstances. One recent ruling in Pierce County clarified when this practice is legal and illegal.
The case stemmed from a traffic stop back in February of 2010 for a broken taillight and suspected illegal harvesting of shellfish. There were four Hispanics in the vehicle, and after they produced the proper licenses for driving and fishing, they were asked about their immigration statuses and detained for an hour for more questioning. Eventually, the men were sent to a federal detention center.
The Superior Court judge ruled that Pierce County deputies were not allowed to detain the men specifically for the purpose of determining their immigration status - even if they are already suspected of committing other crimes. The ruling did not prohibit the practice if suspects were already being detained for other crimes.
King County and the City of Seattle already have policies in place which prohibit law enforcement from inquiring about immigration status.