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San Francisco expunges 9,362 marijuana cases with automation

The legalization of recreational marijuana in California has led many people to seek expungements of drug-related criminal records. In San Francisco, the district attorney announced on Feb. 25 that the automated clearance of eligible cases had been achieved. A total of 9,362 convictions had been sealed, and some cases reached back as far as 1975.

The district attorney's office managed to process so many records with assistance from Code for America. The organization designed an algorithm to analyze criminal records and identify people eligible for marijuana conviction expungement. The process enabled the analysis of data in bulk and allowed the county to be the first in the nation to finish an automated review of cases.

The district attorney said that the success of his office should motivate other prosecutors to expend the effort to clear records for convictions that no longer represent crimes. The automated process spared his staff the task of manually going through thousands of records. Normally, expungement involves a costly process that requires individuals to petition a court.

The mass completion of expungements could help people with criminal records have a second chance in society. The district attorney said that a criminal conviction often means lifelong barriers to employment, housing and education.

Someone who's interested in expungement for drug charges could speak with an attorney. A case evaluation could inform a person if the record might be eligible for expungement. The representation of an attorney might also help someone avoid a conviction for new drug offenses. An attorney could defend the client's rights in court and cast doubt on questionable evidence.

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