For drug-related offenses in Washington State, there are several alternatives to incarceration that the courts may consider. These programs generally involve substance abuse treatment/rehabilitation as an alternative to incarceration.

The Seattle Times describes the expansion of one of these programs, which is designed for non-violent drug offenders as an alternative to incarceration. Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) started in Belltown in 2011 and has recently expanded to Seattle Police Department’s East Precinct, presenting this alternative to more individuals who are facing drug charges.

LEAD reflects a model that is gaining momentum nationally. Other cities and states are beginning to allocate funding for similar programs, given the great success of LEAD in Seattle.

In this program, non-violent drug offenders are assigned to case managers who help them connect to much needed resources. Resources target addiction and mental health treatment, homelessness, and vocational services.  The intention is to help break the cycle for many offenders who cycle in and out of jail.

There are specific requirements involved with being accepted into LEAD. Participants must possess less than 3 grams of drugs when arrested and they must not have felony convictions for serious violent crimes and other offenses. They also cannot be suspected of exploiting minors in a drug-dealing operation or promoting prostitution. For those who are accepted into LEAD, no criminal charges are filed.

Drug offenses in Washington State are referred to as VUSCA: Violation of the Uniform Controlled Substance Act. The Uniform Controlled Substance Act is outlined in Chapter 69.50 RCW. In Washington State, the term “controlled substance” is applied to all illegal drugs. Please see our prior blog post about drug possession laws in Washington State.

Programs such as LEAD are great alternative to incarceration, but you need a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney on your side. There may be other alternatives, such as probation or drug court, if you cannot qualify for LEAD.

If you are facing drug related charges, it is imperative that you work with an experienced, knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can thoroughly explore your options and fight for your best interests. A drug conviction can have significant negative repercussions, including but not limited to fines and jail time. Your job, relationships, and livelihood may be at stake. These are significant charges and you should not try to tackle them without experienced counsel to advise you appropriately and advocate on your behalf.