There's a concept in Washington law known as the “saving statute.” Basically, it means that any criminal acts, forfeitures, penalties, or sentences are “saved” from being impacted whenever a new law is passed or a statute is amended. In other words, you can't have your past crimes or sentences expunged or reversed simply because the law changes after the fact.
That's why a recent Washington Court of Appeals decision, , is so intriguing, because its logic runs counter to the saving statute. Moreover, it impacts a hot-button issue in the state: marijuana legalization.
Initiative 502 went into effect on December 6, 2012 after voters approved it the month before. At issue is whether the intent of the voters was to decriminalize marijuana possession not only for future occurrences, but also for those cases which were pending at the time the initiative became law.
Justin Rose was charged in June of 2012 of pot possession and use of drug paraphernalia. Three months later, Rose entered into an agreement with the court which involved the dismissal of both charges if he paid certain fees and costs, performed community service, was evaluated for alcohol or drug abuse, and complied with any recommendations of alcohol or drug treatment.
But Rose didn't enter an outpatient treatment program as recommended by evaluators; and in January 2013, the court determined that he had violated the conditions of his deferral agreement and would be found guilty of his drug charges. Rose's demand to dismiss the charges based on I-502's implementation was rejected, so he appealed the court ruling.
Based largely on the information about I-502 contained in the voters' pamphlet, the appeals court found that the new law did apply to pending prosecutions; so the judges overturned Rose's two drug possession convictions.