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California marijuana reform for criminal records

A new law in California will make it easier for residents with marijuana convictions to have their records expunged or to request a reduction of their sentences. Assembly Bill 1783 promises to streamline a process that has previously been difficult.

Several other states have enacted legislation to allow those with marijuana convictions to get their records expunged or sealed more easily. California joins Oregon, Colorado, Maryland, Massachusetts and New Hampshire in this effort, following legislation in these states to legalize marijuana.

California's system for the process is unique because it is the first state to implement an automated procedure. Lawmakers hope that this legislation will change the lives of thousands of residents who have faced limited options for obtaining student loans, housing and jobs due to their marijuana convictions. The system is designed to make it more accessible for those who may not be able to afford legal counsel.

The state will do most of the work to clear the records of its citizens with prior marijuana convictions, even for individuals who were not aware that they were eligible. Felony possession with intent to sell convictions will be reduced to misdemeanor convictions, and some people will have their marijuana offense convictions erased completely.

A person who has had their reputation damaged by an arrest or conviction related to drug charges may benefit from speaking to a criminal defense attorney. Individuals who do not qualify for relief under the new law because their crime involved a different type of offense may still be able to get their record sealed with the assistance of legal counsel.

In cases where there has been no conviction entered yet, an attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecuting attorney for a plea to reduced charges or a drug diversion program, which may result in dismissal of the charges if the defendant successfully completes the program.

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