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Criminal Defense From A Former Prosecutor

California law allows for expungment of pot convictions

Assembly Bill 1793 passed the California state legislature and was signed into law by the governor on Sept. 30. The law is designed to make it easier for people who were convicted of cannabis-related crimes in the past to clean up their records. People who have past marijuana convictions will have the opportunity under the new law to have their sentences reduced or their criminal records expunged.

According to a person who works with the Drug Policy Alliance, the California law is transformative and establishes a path for people to retake control of their lives. Other states have passed similar legislation allowing people with convictions for cannabis to clear their names. These states include Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,and Maryland. California, though, is the first state to make the system automated. According to estimates by the Judicial Council of California, at least 218,000 people in the state stand to benefit thanks to the law.

A 2016 study by the Drug Policy Alliance and the ACLU indicated that marijuana convictions have disproportionately impacted people of color. While white people use marijuana at rates similar to black people and higher than Latinos, the latter groups are more likely to be pursued or arrested by police for minor marijuana infractions. During 2010, black people were 3.73 times as likely as white people to be taken into custody for marijuana possession.

In cases where people are charged with drug crimes, a lawyer might help by examining the prosecution's case for weaknesses. If law enforcement has failed to obey required protocols in handling evidence, a lawyer might be able to argue against the admission of the evidence at trial. A lawyer with experience in criminal defense law might attempt to negotiate a plea bargain in exchange for reduced penalties.

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