State v. Blake

Blake Commutation Orders

In response to the Washington Supreme Court’s recent State v. Blake decision, the Governor is “commuting” criminal sentences of people serving Department of Corrections (DOC) Community custody only for Possession of Controlled Substance. 

If you answer Yes to all of the following, you may be eligible for a Commutation Order:

  1. Are you currently serving a sentence of community custody, either actively or on warrant status, with the Washington Department of Corrections?
  2. Is your sentence for Possession of Controlled Substance under RCW 69.50.4013(1)?
  3. Is your sentence only for Possession of Controlled Substance, and not combined with sentences for any other offenses? 

 

Only people who meet all three criteria are eligible for a Commutation Order. Please read below to learn:

 

What is a Commutation Order

The Governor of Washington State has the power to “commute” a prison sentence, including the part of a sentence served outside of prison, known as Community Custody. See RCW 10.01.120. When the Governor commutes a sentence, the convicted person is no longer required to serve the sentence. If a Community Custody sentence is commuted, then you will no longer be required to report to a Community Corrections Officer.

A commutation does not change the fact that a person was convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison and/or Community Custody. The original conviction and sentence still exist as part of the official court record. The Governor’s commutation order just overrides the original court order about the need to actually serve the time.

If your conviction for drug possession is vacated in court, there is no need to apply for a commutation order.

 

Why is this happening

On February 25, 2021, the Washington Supreme Court decided State v. Blake [PDF].exitingwebsite The Court ruled that the state’s main drug possession law RCW 69.50.4013(1) exitingwebsite is unconstitutional and “void.” People convicted of felony drug possession under that law and currently serving a sentence in prison or on Community Custody can have the rest of their sentence eliminated.  That process is known as “commutation.”

Governor Jay Inslee has already commuted sentences for eligible people in prison. He is now starting to commute sentences for people serving Community Custody.

 

What a Commutation Order Does

When a person receives a commutation order, they no longer have to serve their sentence. DOC is instructed to stop supervising the individual, and to stop collecting fees and fines (commonly referred to as legal financial obligations – LFOs). However, the person still has the drug possession conviction on their court record and their criminal history record. Additional steps must be taken to clear those, and seek reimbursement of previously paid LFOs.

 

What a Commutation Order Does NOT Do

A commutation order does not change court records showing that a person was convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison and/or Community Custody. The original conviction and sentence still exist as part of the official court record and Washington State Patrol (WSP) background checks. The Governor’s commutation order just overrides the original court order regarding the requirement to actually serve the time.

To clear your criminal record and seek reimbursement of your legal financial obligations (LFOs), you must pursue a Motion to Vacate in the county of conviction. 

If you are not a United States citizen, a commutation order does not change the immigration consequences of your criminal conviction(s).

If you have new or pending charges, the commutation order has no impact on those charges.

 

What to Do if I’m Sentenced to Drug Possession AND Another Offense

Commutation orders are only available to people serving sentences for only possession of controlled substances. If you are still serving a sentence for this and other crimes, you are not eligible for commutation. However, you may be eligible to vacate the drug conviction and be resentenced. Contact your attorney to learn more about your options, and the risks and benefits of resentencing.

 

How to Apply for a Commutation Order

The quickest way to get a commutation order is by contacting your Community Corrections Officer (CCO). They will confirm whether you are eligible, and will help you with the necessary paperwork.

If you do not want to contact your CCO, commutation orders are available through the following steps. This process may take up to six weeks:

    • Find your case information: case number and DOC number.
    • Complete this Petition for Commutation [PDF]. Write clearly in dark ink. The Office of Public Defense (OPD) cannot process commutation applications if we cannot read the information.
    • Send your petition to OPD by email or postal mail to:

Email AddressThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Postal Address: OPD – Blake,  PO 40957, Olympia, WA 98501-0957

OPD will then:

    • Verify with DOC that you qualify for a commutation order.
    • Notify you if you do not qualify OR send you the completed commutation order signed by the Governor.

     

    If you have questions, contact OPD at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 360-586-3164 ext. 218.

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