(see the neighbors' comments on the Central District News version of this story)
Dear Community Members,
For over a year the Seattle Police Department and the King County Prosecutor's Office have been working together to implement a Stay Out of Drug Area (SODA) program for defendants charged with narcotics trafficking crimes.
As a part of that effort, the Seattle Police precinct commanders have identified geographic locations in their precincts as high narcotics trafficking areas . These areas were identified as such based upon citizen and business complaints, crime statistics and police observations.
King County deputy prosecutors will soon be asking Superior Court judges to order defendants arrested in these SODA zones to stay out of these zones as a condition of their pre-trial release. This order will also authorize the Seattle Police Department to contact and/or arrest defendants who violate the court's order. (A copy of this order is attached for your review. The East District SODA map, shown here, will become readable if you click on it)
At this point, we need to convince the court that the program is worth the effort and necessary to the public safety. Since the effort to implement this program was driven in large part by residents and businesses it may be helpful for judges to learn what it is like to live and work in areas near open air drug markets and how the issuance of SODA orders might be useful in reducing these problems.
Mark Larson, Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney, will soon be meeting with King County Presiding Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer to explain the reasons for the SODA program. If you would like for Mr. Larson to include your comments in his meeting with Judge Hilyer, then please address a letter to the judge and send it to me by April 21, 2008.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
Office of the King County Prosecuting Attorney
King County Courthouse
516 3rd Ave. W554
Seattle, WA. 98104
Update/Explanation from Ellen:
- The Pre-Trial SODA order makes exceptions to the restriction for places of employment, court/government offices, social services provider, attorney office, medical services, and school between the hours of 6:00 am and 6:00 pm. If an individual lives in a SODA zone then the order is usually not imposed. The request is made only for the SODA zone that the person was arrested in, not all the zones in a precinct.
- The order is for a 90 day period from the date that a defendant is arraigned for the offense. Most cases are adjudicated by that time.
- Pre-Trial SODA orders have been issued in other cities in the United States.
- Superior Court Judges often place pre-trial restrictions on charged defendants if the restriction if related to the charged crime.
Below is a Q & A between Phil (who posted the comment below)
>>> Phil 4/10/2008 9:36 AM >>>
Answers by Ellen O'Neill-Stephens to questions from Phil:
Dear Mr. Mocek, I'm in a time crunch at work and this is the best I can do to respond to your questions. Would you mind posting my responses to your questions on the blog post? Thanks so much, Ellen
First and foremost SODA orders are issued on a case by case basis and the issues you raise are discussed by the parties before the judge decides to enter such an order. SODA orders can be tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals.
We are trying to implement this program because it is common for people charged with drug crimes to immediately return to these open air drug markets and continue selling drugs.
The sticky part about SODA is that it bypasses various checks &
balances and creates a crime out of a non-crime.
When someone is issued the SODA order, he has been neither
convicted of nor tried for wrongdoing. At that point, if he is
found to be in the applicable SODA area, then he is in violation
of the law, even when he's not doing anything that would otherwise
Judges often place restrictive conditions on a defendant charged with a crime. For example, judges almost always place no contact orders on defendants charged with assaulting others or stealing from stores. When a judge does this he/she is balancing the rights of the defendant with public safety issues or concern for the safety of alleged victims. (This would also creates a crime out of a non-crime.) If they violate the order they are in contempt of court.
Is there is any appeals process for a SODA order?
Defense counsel represent their clients when a SODA order is requested. The matter could be brought before the court of appeals
Are they issued only as conditions of pre-trial release, or can
they also be issued by police officers? I have previously been
told that the latter is the case.
Only a judge can issue a SODA order. SODA orders have been used for years by our King County Drug Courts and Seattle Municipal courts as a condition of treatment or sentencing.
I know my way around the Internet and am pretty handy with a Web
browser, but I can't find a Seattle SODA map anywhere besides here
in this blog post. I had no idea that these areas now covered the
entire core of the city. This is crazy.
It is very unfortunate that open air drug markets are so commonplace in Seattle.
Ms. O'Neill-Stephens' update states that exemptions are made for
certain places during certain hours. I'm left wondering, though,
whether it would be possible for people to get to and from their
jobs, homes, or court without violating a SODA order. And what if
someone is ordered to stay out of Zone 4, which includes a major
bus transfer points?
Please review the pre-trial order referenced in the blog. The order allows for travel within the zone Travel is defined as movement on foot or in a vehicle from one point to another without delay.
She also states that if a person lives in a SODA zone, the order
is usually not imposed. I read this to mean that sometimes a
person is ordered to stay out of a SODA zone that includes his
home. That is ridiculous.
If someone lives in a zone and the judge elects to issue a SODA order than the judge can modify the prohibited area of the zone to allow for the defendant to live in an area of the zone.
I understand the desire to keep people who have been accused of
crime out of areas where we suspect that they may be likely to
commit more crime, but somehow this seems unconstitutional to me.
If someone has been accused of crime, arranged, and released until
his trial (without SODA order), and that person is later found in
one of these SODA areas, isn't he a sitting duck? It seems to me
that the wise course of action would be to watch him closely when
he's found in that area, and if he is seen committing another
crime (which we feel he's very likely to do or else we wouldn't be
suggesting all this SODA business, right?), arrest him again,
thereby collecting even more evidence to use against him in court.
The police usually watch an individual to determine if he/she is moviing through an area without delay or engaging in activity consistent with narcotics trafficking before deciding to investigate and/or arrest for a SODA violation. People at bus stops are given a much longer period of time to catch a bus before the police contact the individuals.
Thank you for your time.