OLYMPIA – A new law, sponsored by Rep. Jesse Johnson (D-Federal Way), to require that a youth be provided access to an attorney when they are arrested and read their rights was signed by the governor today. HB 1140 expands an existing King County program to apply statewide and requires that an individual under the age of 18 be provided access to an attorney before they waive any constitutional rights when contacted by law enforcement.
Many young people are unaware of their rights and can be susceptible to intimidation or pressure to provide testimony against their own interest. In Washington state, youth of color are about 28 percent of the general population but are nearly 50 percent of youth in county detention facilities. Without an adult attorney to represent their best interests and provide good counsel, youth and especially youth of color are making decisions that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
“For too long, we have let our systems incarcerate youth of color without giving them the protections they deserve and that has to change. In a year of ground-breaking work in equity, ensuring that every child has access to an attorney when contacted by police is absolutely necessary and I am grateful to my colleagues in the Legislature and Governor Inslee for agreeing to take this step with me,” said Johnson.