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Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Convicted of a marijuana-related crime? Erie County DA simplifies the process of reducing and erasing records

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Erie County residents convicted of marijuana-related offenses can have their convictions reduced or expunged in a month if they follow an expedited process that begins with attending a media clinic, John J. Flynn, the Erie District Attorney, said at a news conference Thursday.

After Legalization of marijuana in spring 2021The New York state legislature’s timetable to automatically reduce past marijuana-related offenses has proven slow, Flynn said, and may be delayed even past the state’s deadline. According to the state marijuana regulation and taxation act, the state office of court administration was required to do so Automatically cross 107,000 low-level convictions by March 31, 2023.

“People who are convinced of marijuana want to join the military now,” Flynn said. “They don’t want to wait two years. People need a student loan now, not two years from now. People want a job now.”

The most significant part of Thursday’s announcement was a streamlined process to reduce marijuana-related felony to misdemeanours, which would require a court proposal and would not be done automatically by the state. According to the Marijuana Legalization Act, criminal convictions that qualify for disqualification, reduced charge, or reduced sentence include criminal first- and second-degree possession of marijuana and criminal first-, second- and third-degree sale of marijuana.

The first step for people previously convicted of marijuana in Erie County Court—either felony or misdemeanour—is to attend one of two free briefing sessions, 6 to 8 p.m. on August 25 or 2 to 4 p.m. on September 24, at Fellowship Elim Christian, 70 Street Chalmers.

To proceed with a conviction reduced or removed, attendees must show proof of identity and fill out an application and financial eligibility forms to allow attorneys access to court records and criminal history. Legal experts will appear at sessions to answer questions about the delisting process, as not all marijuana convictions are included in the MRTA.

Flynn said personal information and consent papers from the clinics will be handled by Kevin M. Stadelmayer, the first deputy defendant from the criminal division of the Erie County Bar Association’s Designated Legal Counsel Program, and Sarah Ryan, administrative attorney for the criminal defense unit at Buffalo Legal Aid Office.

Lawyers will file individual applications with the Erie County Court, then give the county attorney’s office the consent to reduce or strike the conviction. Flynn said the process to reduce a felony conviction or write down a lower-level crime could be completed in about a month.

The DA explained in a press release that erasing a criminal record is not the same as destroying a record. Deletion simply means closing the criminal record, which can only be opened if the convicted person applies for a gun permit or for a law enforcement job. For low-level marijuana crimes, a separate and free application to destroy deleted marijuana history is available in New York Court System website.

A spokesman for the New York State Department of Criminal Justice said Thursday that the MRTA’s four marijuana-related convictions — for possession of up to 16 ounces or selling up to 25 grams of marijuana or cannabis — were automatically suppressed on June 10, 2021, which means they do not. They appear in civil or criminal record requests. These records will be crossed out when the New York Office of Court Management gives stamp orders to DCJS.

The spokesperson confirmed that the two counts of the state’s decriminalization of marijuana in 2019, which made possession of small amounts and smoking into public violations rather than misdemeanours, had already been expunged.

Flynn said he partnered with Elem Christian Fellowship and her pastor, Reverend T Anthony Bonner, because the black community was disproportionately affected by the decriminalization of cannabis. a Drug Policy Alliance Study Using 2010-2020 data, he showed that in Buffalo there were three times as many marijuana arrests as black people than white people, with differences most marked by ZIP code.

For those with marijuana-related convictions in neighboring counties other than Erie, Flynn said his office can provide connections to help facilitate the process in those areas.

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