California Attorney General Demands Expedited Expungement Process for Cannabis Offenders

California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D-CA) demands the prosecuting attorneys throughout the state of California to speed up their past due processing of past cannabis convictions to allow eligible people to have their crimes reduced or removed entirely and records sealed from public opinion.

Proposition 64, which Californians passed back in 2016 to legalize bud for adults, allowed individuals with certain prior convictions to solicit to the courts of California for relief, an attempt to reverse criminal results of conduct that is no longer outlawed. The framework rolled out sporadically across the state of California and found itself in repeated holds, so in 2018 legislators passed distinct legislation to simplify the process.

Bonta, a CA assembly member at the time, was that measure’s lead backer.

“Since this bill went into effect,” he stated in a release earlier this week, “thousands of Californians have been capable to turn the page and begin a new start—despite this, there are still some individuals who are clamoring for relief. I demand counties to streamline processing their records so that these citizens can finally get the relief they are entitled to.”

Prosecutors had until July of 2020 to evaluate eligible cases and choose whether to challenge them. Despite this, the attorney general’s office stated some have still not put forth necessary information to the California courts handling the alleviation.

A publication administered by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) on The CA AG’s behalf stated that as of December 1, the unit was “conscious that there are some prosecuting departments that have not delivered a complete list of cases to the court for evaluation.” That could stall eligible defendants from witnessing relief from low-level cannabis crimes.

“In this circumstance, the California court may not have been capable of  ‘reducing or dismissing the conviction’ or thereafter ‘notify the agency of the recall or dismissal of crime, dismissing and sealing, or relatable remedies,’ as outlined by the Bonta-sponsored measure, AB 1793, the DOJ publication expressed.

“If there is no pause by the prosecution,” it states, “the measure needs courts to automatically lower or toss out the conviction and notify the CA DOJ to change the state summary criminal history report database.”

AB 1793 demands that DOJ evaluate cases going back more than forty years and identify examples where charges might not apply following cannabis legalization. California prosecutors then had the opportunity to review and likely question the specified cases. If they chose not to, the logs would be revised to remove the cannabis convictions, update sentences, and seal the court records.

While sealing the cannabis convictions doesn’t mean obliterating them, it hides them from public sight. Having a criminal record creates a bias in lodging, jobs, education, financial aid, and other essential everyday services.

“A bulk of people don’t know that they qualify” for relief under the fairly new measure Felicia Carbajal, programming lead for New Expungement Works, informed journalists earlier this Spring. “I imagine a multitude of the folks who have those low-level cannabis convictions aren’t speeding to their local departments to get this taken care of, nor are [cannabis convicts] taking it upon themselves to do [the cannabis expungement application] because it is burdensome. It’s not an easy procedure if you’ve never filled out similar court documents or if you’re operating from a place of trauma. So many moments, people from historically-underserved neighborhoods get so frustrated when they’re put in these circumstances.”

The struggle to clear records autonomously gained momentum in the Spring of 2018, prior to Bonta’s measure becoming law when Fmr. San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón stated his office would find and reclassify archives from 1975. Other California counties, along with a few other states, would ultimately follow suit.

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