Friday, August 19, 2022, 06:50 PM
Legal experts will be available to provide information and answer questions regarding the removal or reduction of eligible criminal convictions under the new state legislation
On Thursday, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced the first of two upcoming events for Erie County residents interested in learning how to write off or reduce marijuana-related convictions on their criminal record.
The first media clinic will be held from 6-8pm on Thursday, August 25th. A second clinic will be held from 2-4pm on Saturday 24th September. Both events will be held at Elme Christian Fellowship at 70 Chalmers Street, in Buffalo.
Flynn’s team said, “A criminal record, even for low-level marijuana-related crime, can negatively impact an individual’s ability to access education, housing, and employment. The purpose of these free information sessions is to educate residents about eligibility requirements, and to assist those who are legally entitled Removing marijuana-related convictions from their criminal record. Legal experts will be available to provide residents with information on recently enacted criminal laws and answer questions about the removal process.”
Flynn said, “Now that New York State has legalized recreational cannabis, we must act on behalf of people whose lives have been unfairly affected by a marijuana-related conviction in their criminal record. In particular, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis, which It hindered their pursuit of certain life opportunities. I hope to give a fresh start to our citizens who have been living with these criminal convictions by providing legal support to speed up the write-off or demotion.”
Joined by District Attorney Kevin M. Stadelmeyer, First Deputy Defendant – Criminal Division of the Erie County Bar Association designated for the Legal Counsel Program; Sarah Ryan, Director of Attorney – Criminal Defense Unit at the Office of Legal Aid at Buffalo, Inc. Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Brunner of the Elim Christian Fellowship.
“After years of injustice committed against poor populations and minorities through the criminalization of marijuana, the New York State Legislature legalized adult possession and use of marijuana in 2021,” Stadelmaier said. “This landmark legislation takes dramatic steps to dramatically reduce crime, improve negatively affected communities, and redress convictions.” The unfairness that occurred under the now-abolished legal system.A key component of the new law is the erasure of most marijuana-related convictions, providing clients affected by previous laws the ability to move forward without burdens.Thanks to the Buffalo Legal Aid Office, and the Community of Greater Foundation Buffalo, and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn for their partnership in our efforts to collectively write off these convictions.”
Ryan said, “Erasing marijuana-related convictions is a step toward correcting one of the many injustices experienced by members of disadvantaged communities in our city. Exclusion gives people the ability to apply for work, education, and housing without a marijuana conviction that negatively impacts the better future they hope to achieve.” Allowing people to achieve dreams leads to a better and more prosperous society for everyone. The Buffalo Legal Aid Office would like to thank all the participants who are working towards this worthy project.”
Flynn’s team made clear that a write-off invalidates a criminal conviction, as if the arrest had never occurred. Once the conviction is written off, it will no longer appear on a criminal background check and does not need to be disclosed when applying for a job, student loans, or housing. The conviction history will be sealed and kept confidential unless you apply for a handgun permit or work with a law enforcement agency.
Under the legislation, only certain cannabis-related offenses committed in New York state can be expunged or reduced from the criminal record. Any convictions in the criminal case, other than offenses related to marijuana, will remain on the individual’s criminal record.
Under the New York State Marijuana and Tax Regulation Act (MRTA), certain offenses involving possession or sale of cannabis will automatically be removed from an individual’s criminal record by the New York State Office of Court Administration, and sealed with a law process. While the write-off of some cannabis-related convictions requires no action, the Office of the Tribunal Administration has been given two years to implement the automatic removal process, which is not expected to be completed until March 31, 2023.
A conviction will be automatically invalidated by a court if a person is found guilty of violating the following sections of the New York State Penal Code:
√ PL 221.05 Second-degree illegal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.10 Illegal possession of first-degree marijuana
√ PL 221.15 Fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.20 Third-degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.35 Criminal sale of class 5 marijuana
√ PL 221.40 Fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 222.10 Restrictions on the use of cannabis
√ PL 222.15 Personal cultivation and home possession of cannabis
√ PL 222.25 Unlawful possession of cannabis
√ PL 222.45 Illicit sale of cannabis
The following convictions are only subject to automatic clearing if the controlled substance is concentrated cannabis:
√ PL 240.36 First class loitering, but only if a court can decide that concentrated cannabis is the only controlled substance.
√ PL 220.03 Criminal possession of a Class VII controlled substance, but only if a court can determine that concentrated cannabis is the only controlled substance.
√ PL 220.06 Criminal possession of a Class V controlled substance, but only if a court could determine that concentrated cannabis was the only controlled substance.
Certain convictions may qualify for disqualification, reduced fees, and/or reduced sentence, but require a motion to be submitted to the court:
√ PL 221.25 Second-degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.30 First-degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.45 Criminal sale of third-degree marijuana
√ PL 221.50 Criminal sale of second-degree marijuana
√ PL 221.55 Criminal sale of first-degree marijuana
Erie County residents who believe they have a qualified conviction related to marijuana are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming information sessions. Anyone seeking disqualification or reduction must sign and complete the application form and financial eligibility form to allow legal experts to obtain a copy of the applicant’s court records and criminal history.
Lawyers will review records to determine each person’s eligibility to have a conviction written off or reduced. If the lawyers are qualified, they will file an application with the court to have the criminal charge expunged or reduced. The application will be submitted to a judge, and prosecutors from the Erie County District Attorney’s office will agree to deny or reduce the conviction by a court date expected to occur this fall. The applicant will be notified if the conviction does not qualify for deletion or reduction.
Free informational clinics are provided by the Erie County Attorney’s Office, the Erie County Designated Counselors Program, and the Buffalo Legal Aid Office, with support from the Greater Buffalo Area Community Foundation.