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Drug charge penalties enhanced when on school or public property

Despite many states relaxing their approach toward recreational marijuana use, the war on drugs wages on. This means that law enforcement and prosecutors continue to aggressively pursue those they believe are guilty of manufacturing, dealing and possessing drugs, with stiff penalties sought out in the event of conviction. Washington residents who face drug charges may find themselves concerned about their future, and for good reason. A criminal conviction could land an individual in prison for a significant period of time, leave them facing expensive fines and give them a reputation and record that can be hard to escape even after one's debt to society has been paid.

This is especially true for those who are accused of a drug crime in or near school property or public property. Under Washington law, an individual convicted of manufacturing, selling or delivering drugs in a school, on school property, within a thousand feet of a school's premises or school bus route, in a public park, on public transportation or in a public housing project may face twice the fines and twice the length of imprisonment of those otherwise convicted of a state drug offense.

Unfortunately, the law rules out what some would think of as reliable defenses to this enhancement. For example, an individual cannot claim that he or she did not know they were in a prohibited area when the alleged crime occurred, and he or she cannot claim that the enhancement doesn't apply because the alleged offense occurred within the confines of a private residence.

However, there may be other criminal defense options available to those facing drug crime allegations. Criminal defendants may be able to challenge the legality of a search and seizure, or they may be able to challenge intent or where the alleged crime occurred. Every case is fact-specific, though, so those accused of a drug offense may want to seek assistance with developing a criminal defense that is right for them.

Source: Washington State Legislature, "RCW 69.50.435," accessed on March 6, 2017

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