Seattle Pondering ‘Poverty Defense’ for Most Misdemeanors

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Seattle lawmakers are pondering a law that could give most suspects a get out of jail free card for most misdemeanor offenses if they can be connected to poverty or mental illness.

If the measure is approved, Seattle would be the first city to have such a law, the New York Post reported.

“In a situation where you took that sandwich because you were hungry and you were trying to meet your basic need of satisfying your hunger, we as a community will know that we should not punish that,” Anita Khandelwal, King County director of public defense, told KUOW. “That conduct is excused.”

The Seattle City Council said the proposed law, seeking input from local public defenders, would give suspected thieves, trespassers, and assault suspects a pass, but would not look the other way for people who are caught driving while impaired or accused of domestic violence.

The push for the reform comes as Seattle has seen a spike in crime this year, WSFX reported.

The city’s homeless population has also increased by five percent, according to WSFX.

But not everyone is on board with this proposed rule change.

“It sends this powerful signal that as a city government, we don’t really care about this type of criminal behavior in our city,” former city councilman Tim Burgess told KUOW.


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