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Grappling with Our Own Errors: Lessons from State v. Blake


Alicia Ochsner Utt


May 8, 2023

After fifty years of a failed war on drugs, many states are just now beginning to take steps toward attempting to repair a half-century of harm. By examining the response of Washington’s government at the executive and legislative levels to the Washington Supreme Court’s decision in State v. Blake, this Note identifies some key factors that must be present in the paths forward for all states in their own processes of reform. The stakeholders involved in transforming the criminal legal system must ensure that relief from prior drug-related convictions is automatic, geographically standardized, and complete. Any form of relief must include the right to the assistance of counsel. Lawmakers and other stakeholders must also consider the inadequacy of simply substituting misdemeanor convictions for felony convictions. Finally, any large-scale reform of the criminal legal system must include input from the people most affected by the failed war on drugs. This is an opportunity to embrace truly bold and meaningful reform. By applying the factors identified in this Note to any legislation tackling the fallout of Blake, Washington can live up to the promise of the decision and lead the way in the national process of creating a fair and equitable criminal justice system.


Alicia Ochsner Utt, Grappling with Our Own Errors: Lessons from State v. Blake, 80 Wash. & Lee L. Rev. Online 347 (2023).