A Shifting Legal Landscape
As State lawmakers continue to redefine the legality of marijuana, those with prior marijuana-related convictions may see the light. A conviction for possession of a controlled substance is a serious matter. And many Californians now have a conviction for possession of a drug that is now entirely legal in the state. To make amends, California is dismissing thousands of marijuana convictions. Could yours be one? Read on to learn about whose convictions will be dismissed and why this change is taking place.
With the advent of Prop 64, those with convictions for marijuana crimes that are now legal can petition to have their records cleaned. The State of California allows those with misdemeanor marijuana convictions to petition to have the conviction expunged. Those with certain felony marijuana convictions may be able to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor.
But the legal process of expungement can turn many off, as it involves complicated paperwork and can require legal guidance. Some major California cities have decided to take matters into their own hands in efforts to right the “wrong” of the war on drugs. Specifically, San Francisco has decided to provide relief to those with convictions that qualify for expungement by automatically cleaning their records. They don't have to file the complex petition or pay the usual fee. And by automating the process, these cities avoid a backlog of cases. Through this initiative, over 3,000 misdemeanor convictions (dating back to 1975) will be automatically expunged and over 4,000 felonies will be reduced and resentenced.
For those with convictions from other cities and counties in California, the benefits of Prop 64 are still available. But unless your conviction was in San Francisco or one of the other cities taking steps to automate the process, you may have to petition for the expungement and other benefits through the typical channels.
Certain records of qualifying marijuana arrests and convictions must be automatically sealed and destroyed two years from the date of conviction or from when you were released from serving your jail sentence. If your conviction is already dismissed, you can petition to have the court seal your record. Ordinarily, a dismissal will still appear on your criminal record. Once sealed, the record of the case dismissal will be erased completely. Certain convictions for sale, cultivation, and transportation can be redesigned and resentenced. The specific process and form you must follow will depend on your offense and whether or not you are currently serving your sentence for that offense.
The benefits of Prop 64 and the steps cities like San Francisco are taking to clean the records of the those with marijuana-related convictions are significant. A criminal conviction of any type can be a barrier to employment, housing, and even public assistance. No one deserves to be discriminated against for a crime that no longer exists. Unfortunately, employers and landlords sometimes have the right to deny applicants based off of relevant criminal convictions. Drug possession is an offense that calls into question the defendant's character, which can significantly impact a person's employment prospects.
Seek Legal Guidance for Marijuana-Related Conviction Help
You should work with a criminal defense attorney with experience in expungements for best (and quickest) results if you are seeking to clean your record. Your marijuana-related arrest and/or conviction may be automatically dismissed and the records of it sealed, but you should speak with an attorney to determine exactly when and how that will happen. The record cleaning process in California can be complicated, especially considering the ever-changing laws on marijuana and marijuana-related convictions. An attorney can help you determine if your record can be cleaned because of Prop 64 and specifically what steps you need to take to ensure you reap all the benefits.
If you have a drug possession conviction, we can help you move on from your past. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California record cleaning and will help you clean your record so you can have a fresh start. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.