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State of Washington offers alternative sentencing in drug cases

Addiction to drugs can be a terrible thing. It can tear apart families, cost a person their job, rob a person of their health, and, in the worst of circumstances, could even lead to death. Therefore, it is important that those who are addicted to drugs receive the help they need to overcome their addiction.

The state of Washington recognizes an addict's need for help and has a special drug offender sentencing alternative. Rather than simply being thrown in jail for years or even decades due to a conviction on drug charges, individuals may be eligible for this alternative program, which could be either a residential chemical dependency treatment program or a prison-based alternative. In either case, the standard sentence will be waived.

In order to be eligible for one of these alternatives, a person must meet certain requirements. First of all, the person must have been convicted of a felony. However, this felony cannot be one that is violent, a sex offense or driving under the influence. In addition, a person cannot have had either an ongoing or a past conviction on a sex crime or a violent crime within one decade of the current conviction.

If the conviction is based on the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, the act itself can only involve a small amount of the drug at issue. The judge will look at a number of factors to determine whether the quantity is "small," including the weight of the controlled substance, its purity, how it was packaged, how much it was sold for and what the street value of the controlled substance is. In addition, the standard sentence for the crime at issue must be more than 12 months, and the person must not have gone through a drug offender sentencing alternative more than one time within the past decade.

People who have an addiction to drugs need help. "Throwing the book" at them will not necessarily address the issues that led to the addiction. For those who are eligible, a drug offender sentencing alternative can provide them with the help they need to get clean so they can move forward with their lives in a healthy and productive manner.

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