King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg announced on September 25, 2008 that some felony level drug, property, and ID theft charges will be diverted from Superior Court to district and municipal courts due to budget cuts. Defendants will be charged with misdemeanors, with sentences up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $5000 instead of felonies with the possibility of years in prison and higher fines.
According to an article in the Seattle Times, some of the main changes will be:
- Drug crimes involving possession of less than 3 grams of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine; and less than 100 grams or fewer than 12 plants of marijuana. Prior to the policy change, these charges were all filed in Superior Court and prosecuted as felonies.
- Property crime cases in which the value of the property is $1000 or less will be referred directly by law enforcement to municipal or district court as misdemeanors, excluding theft from a person or domestic violence related cases. Prior to the policy changes, cases concerning less than $500 were referred to lower courts.
- Property crime cases where the value is between $1001-$5000 will be referred to the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, but will be filed in district court and defendants will be automatically extended an offer to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. If the defendant declines the offer, the case would be refiled into Superior Court as a misdemeanor. Prior to the policy changes, these cases were all filed in Superior Court as felonies.
- ID Theft cases where the loss is $1000 or less and there are no aggravating factors will be referred to lower courts as misdemeanors offenses. Prior to the policy changes, the amount was $500.
Today, Prosecuting Attorney Satterberg stated in an interview on KUOW that his office has had a tremendously high number of serious violent felonies and homicides for 2008. He indicated that his office needs to prioritize prosecuting those serious violent cases.