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New reasons to get arrested
By ERICA HALL
The Federal Way City Council will vote next Tuesday on a proposal to criminalize several acts that so far aren't felonies and aren't prosecuted, including drug-related loitering, counterfeiting, vehicular assault and pedestrian hit-and-runs.
According to city officials, Federal Way's Police Department recently spent significant time investigating crimes that didn't meet felony guidelines and don't have any misdemeanor counterparts. Because of that, the city wasn't able to prosecute the offenders. In response, officials recommended an ordinance to criminalize the offenses so when they occur in the future, the city will be able to press charges.
Under current drug laws, it's not a prosecutable offense for a person to exhibit the behaviors police and most law-abiding citizens recognize as drug-dealing. The new drug-related loitering code would make it illegal to loiter in a public or private area and act in a way "manifesting the intent to engage in drug-related activity."
The code applies to people convicted of drug offenses or suspected to be on drugs, as well as to people behaving in suspicious ways that lead people to believe they might be engaging in drug-related activity, including serving as a lookout. It also applies to those who police know to be gang members, are making "furtive" exchanges of small packages for money, flee when the police show up and try to hide themselves or objects which might be involved in drug-related activity.
Anyone who violates the new code is guilty of a misdemeanor and could be jailed for 90 days and fined up to $1,000.
The proposed city ordinance also adopts a state law against counterfeiting intellectual property, which includes copying CDs and DVDs and making knock-offs of popular name-brand products in order to sell or distribute them.
"It was brought to our attention because we couldn't prosecute a case," city attorney Pat Richardson said.
Violating the counterfeiting law is a gross misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
The new vehicular assault law makes it a crime to operate a motor vehicle in a reckless or irresponsible manner when such conduct causes death or serious bodily harm. Right now, it's a felony to kill a person while driving in a knowingly reckless way by racing, for example, or driving erratically in a road-rage incident.
But those who cause a fatal accident because they aren't paying attention aren't guilty of a felony. Under the new code, they would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and could be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000.
The second driver-related crime makes it an offense for a driver to leave the scene after a collision with a pedestrian, even if the person on foot or in a wheelchair doesn't appear to be hurt.
If a driver is involved in such a collision, he or she must stop and remain at the scene, provide personal and insurance information to the pedestrian, and help the person get to a hospital for treatment if requested. Helping a person get treatment wouldn't be construed as liability for the accident.
If the police don't show up and the accident is minor, the driver would be responsible for going to the nearest police station to report the accident.
Anyone who violates the new pedestrian hit-and-run code would be guilty of a gross misdemeanor and could be jailed for up to a year and fined up to $5,000.
Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org