Council Passes Bill Adding Misdemeanors to City Criminal Code

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City of Seattle

City Attorney Peter S. Holmes
Councilmember Bruce Harrell

Council Passes Bill Adding Misdemeanors to City Criminal Code

SEATTLE – Council adopted Council Bill 117918 that codifies numerous state laws into Seattle’s criminal code. The ordinance allows the City Attorney to charge these crimes as misdemeanors under Seattle Municipal Code (SMC). The crimes to be charged by the City Attorney in Municipal Court include, but are not limited to, disarming a law enforcement officer (sec. 33), paying an employee less than minimum wage (sec. 41 and 42), operating a watercraft with a THC concentration of 5.00 (sec. 43 and 45), the sale or purchase of food stamps (sec. 39 and 40), and assault with sexual motivation (sec. 5).

Roughly 30 Revised Code of Washington (RCW) crimes are being added to the SMC. Among the others are unlawful imprisonment, possession of another person’s identification, communication with a minor for immoral purposes and possessing a firearm or other weapon at a school, jail, court, mental health facility, tavern or airport.

The impetus for the legislation stems from a Washington Supreme Court decision (Auburn v. Gauntt, 2012), which held that the City Attorney did not have the authority to prosecute state crimes in Seattle Municipal Court. The City Attorney had previously prosecuted some of these crimes in Municipal Court because King County had appointed Assistant City Attorneys as Special Deputy King County Prosecuting Attorneys.

“This is a great opportunity for City Council to help guide SPD law enforcement priorities, by emphasizing local concerns from the broader statewide criminal code,” said City Attorney Pete Holmes. These are already crimes under state law. The Council must adopt these crimes into the City code to be able to prosecute them. “These two ordinances are important to align Seattle’s criminal and traffic code with state law,” said Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee. “By adopting these crimes into the City code, we can prosecute them more effectively.”

The ordinance will take effect 30 days after it is signed by the Executive.

[View in Council Newsroom]