In an unprecedented move, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon announced his office would expunge more than 9,000 marijuana convictions dating back to 1975.
The move comes in the wake of California’s statewide legalization of recreational marijuana in 2016. It also represents the first comprehensive expungement of marijuana-related felonies and misdemeanors by a U.S. city.
Gascon decided to proceed with the plan after partnering with Code for America, a non-profit group that uses open source technology to improve government.
The organization and the district attorney’s office searched for every marijuana case eligible for expungement or resentencing under California’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state.
A total of 9,632 cases will be presented to a judge for expungement in the coming weeks.
Gascon told news organizations that he pursued the expungement policy because it was “the morally right thing to do.” Gascon noted that drug convictions can prevent people from participating in their communities. Common activities such as voting, owning a gun or pursuing employment of their choice are often off-limits to people with drug felonies.
The move was also designed to help people who may have a conviction but lack the resources to pursue an expungement through the conventional process. Normally, securing an expungement requires hiring an attorney, petitioning the court and attending a hearing.
Gascon told the media that only 23 people had petitioned the city to expunge their marijuana-related convictions, a testament to the inaccessible nature of the process for many people.
Other Cities to Follow Suit
While San Francisco is the first major city to implement a blanket expungement, other cities are likely to soon follow. A California state law passed in 2018 (Assembly Bill 1793) aims to have all marijuana related convictions reviewed (and dismissed if meeting established criteria) by 2020.
Gascon also pointed to the possibility of cities using Code for America’s technology to identify other types of cases eligible for reclassification or expungement.
He said the technology used in the process allows for records to be reviewed en masse, saving local agencies and governments significant time and money — the primary obstacle to pursuing a policy of broad, general expungements.
By creating a method for making expungements more accessible to a broader group of people, Gascon said expungements become available to the people who most need legal relief, but typically don’t know how to get it, or can’t afford the process.
How the Right Attorney Can Help Clear Your Record
If you’re a California resident who has been convicted of a crime, it may be possible to clear your record through the expungement process.
Additionally, if you’ve been accused of a crime, it’s essential to have an experienced legal advocate fighting to defend you.
Goldstein Law Group has set the standard for criminal defense in California for more than 40 years. If you have a question about how we can help protect your legal rights, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us today.