CA Drug Law Violators Erasing Records Under New Law

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A lesser-known provision of California’s Proposition 64 that passed last year allows some drug-law convicts to wipe their rap sheets clean and offers hope for people with past convictions who are seeking work or loans, the Associated Press reports. Past crimes can also pose a deportation threat for some convicts. It’s hard to say how many people have benefited, but more than 2,500 requests were filed to reduce convictions or sentences. The figures do not yet include data from more than half of counties from the first quarter of the year. While the state does not tally the outcomes of those requests, prosecutors have not fought most petitions. Marijuana legalization advocates, such as the Drug Policy Alliance, have held free legal clinics to help convicts get their records changed.

Lawyers who specialize in pot defense have noted interest from new and former clients. Attorney Bruce Margolin said he gets two to three cases a week, many of them decades old. He has encountered confusion about the law that went into effect immediately in November. “They were totally unprepared,” Margolin said of judges and prosecutors. “It’s amazing. You would have thought they should have had seminars to get them up to speed so we don’t have to go through the process of arguing things that are obvious, but we’re still getting that.” San Diego County led the state with the most petitions in the two months after the law passed. It has reduced sentences or convictions in nearly 400 cases, said Rachel Solov of the district attorney’s office. In Mendocino County, where pot farming is big business and violent crimes are tied to the crop, District Attorney C. David Eyster said he fights any case not eligible for a reduction, such as applicants with a major felony in their past, a sex offense or two previous convictions for the same crime.

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