‘Receipts’ now available to show debt to society has been paid

Tarra Simmons and Superior Court Judge Melissa Hemstreet
Tarra Simmons and Superior Court Judge Melissa Hemstreet

In hopes of learning the process so she can help other people with criminal records transition back into society, and help address some of the causes that lead people back to crime, Tarra Simmons received her certificate of restoration of opportunities on Friday.

In April we wrote about Tarra, a second-year student at the Seattle University School of Law, and her work to help people transitioning out of prison and jail. It’s personal for her, as she spent nearly two years in prison following a descent into meth and crime. Now she plans to become a lawyer and help Kitsap residents get back on their feet after being imprisoned.

The law allows people who have been convicted of certain crimes to petition a judge for a certificate that shows they have completed their sentence and have been law abiding citizens.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg described the certificate as “a receipt that says the person has paid their debt to society and can move forward.”

It’s especially important, advocates say, for those whose job requires on an occupational license from the state and can also help when finding an apartment. It does this partly because it updates a person’s records so when an employer or landlord conducts a Washington State Patrol background check, there will be a note that says the person received the certificate.

Simmons had prepared a statement to explain the new law – it took effect earlier this month.

“I just wanted to at least give oral argument, explain what it was, why I’m eligible,” Tarra said, adding that she had prepared a statement. “And then the prosecutor agreed and said I was eligible, so I didn’t get to say anything.”

Tarra said she heard that nobody in King County has yet received the certificate, and she believes she is the first in Kitsap.

For more information on the certificates, and information on how to get one, go to this Columbia Legal Services page.

7 thoughts on “‘Receipts’ now available to show debt to society has been paid

    1. Thanks for the question! It confirms that all legal financial obligations imposed by the court have been fulfilled, is my understanding, which presumably would include restitution.

  1. Do the property crime victims of meth and heroin addicts get their property redistributed from pawn shops?

    1. A variation on this question was previously addressed. The state doesn’t distinguish between people who are meth and heroin addicts and those people convicted of property crimes who are addicted to other substances, or not addicts. Courts can impose restitution on defendants to replace property that has been stolen, and that would have to be paid before the certificate would be issued. This would not, of course, cover the replacement cost of heirlooms or other “priceless” items that were stolen and not returned. If you know your property is in a pawn shop, your best bet is to call 911 and speak to a police officer. Best of luck to you!

      1. I was being facetious. The standard comment from Kitsap County Law Enforcement if and when you report property crime is: “most likely you’ll never see it again.” I am referring to weed whackers, chain saws, car stereos, bicycles, big screen TV’s, PC’s, laptops, cameras, lawn mowers, circular saws, reciprocating saws, tool sets, smart phones, expensive skis, climbing gear, tennis rackets, outboard motors…you know…the items stolen from our homes by the legions of meth and heroin addicts around here. It is the same type of property that typically abounds in Pawn Shops: the ill-gotten goods; the currency of the drug culture. Only the delusional think that their property will be returned to the rightful owners, and the police realistically know that too. Meanwhile the Court feels it is doing a great job.
        As to the topic being previously addressed, I am still waiting to see the restitution for a $6,000 diamond ring stolen from our home by someone who was apprehended, confessed to police, ordered by the Court to pay restitution…and we have never seen a cent. Should we hire a lawyer to pursue the matter? Invest some money, contribute to the lawyers college fund for their kids? That adds insult to injury in my opinion.
        I agree that the measure discussed is a positive step. But any denial that there is a very serious criminal element related to meth and heroin which has gone on for years here and continues to plague our community is just naive. Only heirlooms are included in restitution? Then what about our ring?

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