A Criminal Record Can Block You From Living Your Life.
A conviction for even a minor criminal offense (like marijuana possession) can mean a life sentence of sorts. Your criminal record can block you from getting a job, attending school, voting, borrowing money, obtaining certain licenses, and qualifying for certain services for your family.
It is a real problem, affecting many people. In 2018 alone, 663,367 people were arrested for cannabis-related offenses (40% of all U.S. drug arrests). But relief is on the way for some under New York’s new Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), recently signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo. A somewhat overlooked provision of the MRTA provides for automatic expungement (erasing) of records for individuals with previous convictions that are no longer crimes. Additionally, the MRTA provides the ability to reduce certain sentences, meaning an individual’s felony conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor.
How Does Expungement Work?
Under the MRTA, convictions for Third and Fourth-degree criminal possession of marijuana and Fourth and Fifth-degree criminal sale of marijuana are to be automatically erased. As a result, the Office of Court Administration and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services has a duty to dismiss, seal, and expunge tens of thousands of records. The changes relating to expungement have an effective date of no later than two years from the date of passage of the legislation, while the changes to the penal law took effect immediately. However, courts may keep copies of electronic and paper records of a person’s conviction unless steps are taken to request their destruction including the filing of a form with the court system.
Ideally, the process of automatic expungement of these records would be seamless, but that has not always proven to be the case. While the government is figuring out how to process these expungements, you may be missing out on job opportunities, student loans, and other services. As a result, you should consider taking an active role to ensure that your expungement and records destruction are processed promptly.
How Can I Reduce a Conviction/Sentence?
It is important to note, not all marijuana convictions will be reduced or automatically expunged. For example, if you sold more than ten pounds of marijuana or sold to a minor, your record will remain. But even then, you might have a chance to seek a reduced or lower charge/sentence by filing a motion with the court. Keep in mind though that the District Attorney will have the opportunity to rebut the presumption that your prior conviction should be overturned and a new, lesser, conviction imposed.
If you have questions/concerns about this process you should reach out to your legal counsel for assistance.
- Thousands convicted of certain criminal possession and/or sale of marijuana charges will have their sentences expunged.
- Thousands convicted of more serious marijuana offenses may petition the courts to reduce their conviction/sentence.
- Don’t wait. Set it straight. Clear your record now.
Please contact HoganWillig’s Criminal Law Practice Group at (716) 636-7600 should you require further legal assistance regarding the topic of expungement.
DISCLAIMER: This article has been published as a service to the general public, and, as such, is intended for general purposes only. The information contained within this article should not be considered and/or construed as legal advice. Each reader is advised to consult legal counsel to determine how the contents of this article may apply to their particular facts and circumstances.