City Attorney Tom Carr has agreed to drop charges against criminal defendants who go through the city's Community Court and complete its treatment and community service requirements. This goes one step toward resolving a split in the criminal justice world that has played out in a big way over the contracts for public defenders in Municipal Court--but there's a hitch.
Some defense attorneys, like those in The Defender Association (TDA), have long been critical of "collaborative" courts such as Community Court that require defendants to plead guilty in order to avoid jail and get help. Other defense attorneys have embraced this approach, which has also been strongly advocated by Carr. "I still want them to plead guilty because I think it's important for them to take responsibility for their actions," he says. But he says he recognizes the importance of removing charges from their record so that they won't face more obstacles in living life on the straight and narrow. "This is a positive development," says Lisa Daugaard of TDA.
Carr is facing his own bureaucratic obstacles in making it happen, however. Once a defendant pleads guilty, he explains, the plea is recorded by the Washington State Patrol. As of now, "there's no way to get that off the record," Carr says, adding that he's working on it.