Proposition 64 was approved by California’s voters in 2016. Proposition 64 not only legalized recreational cannabis use for adults in this state – but it also provided more than a million people with a chance to make their lives better.

How? With Proposition 64’s passage, many of those with old convictions for marijuana possession automatically qualified to have that charge reduced or entirely expunged.

You’ll learn what the expungement process entails, and you’ll learn why some are saying that the process is now taking too long for far too many people here in California.

Deputy public defender Nick Stewart-Oaten of the L.A. County Public Defender’s Office says, “Proposition 64 really does have the ability, and oftentimes does, just change people’s lives.”

HOW MANY IN CALIFORNIA QUALIFY FOR AN EXPUNGEMENT?

The Drug Policy Alliance tells us that over a million people in California now qualify for expungement as a result of Proposition 64. However, a year after Proposition 64’s passage, fewer than 5,000 expungement petitions had been received by the state.

The California State Legislature this year is considering a proposal that would allow expungements to be handled by courts in each county, but some observers are questioning whether that would actually expedite the expungement process.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands in our state are not taking advantage of the opportunity to clean up their criminal records.

Many Californians understood Proposition 64 strictly as a pot legalization proposal. “Most people just don’t know that they’re eligible to get their lives back,” Stewart-Oaten said.

HOW CAN A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER HELP?

If you have an old conviction for marijuana possession in California – or for any misdemeanor – speak with an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney to learn more about the expungement process and your own eligibility for expungement.

Even today in California, having a misdemeanor conviction on your record may prevent you from qualifying for a better job or from acquiring a professional license.

And if you have a difficult time finding housing, or if employers are rejecting you, your criminal record needs to be expunged.

In fact, across the United States, more than 70 million persons have some kind of a criminal record. Many of them do not even know that they may qualify to have a conviction expunged.

WHAT DOES THE EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS ENTAIL?

Expungement is a complicated legal procedure, and you will need an attorney’s help.

You’ll have to complete, fully and accurately, several rounds of paperwork, and you will also have to make a number of appearances before a judge.

One California lawmaker, however, believes that the current expungement process in our state needlessly takes far too long. State Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) is offering a proposal that would make expungements automatic.

The Assemblyman explains, “This bill … simply is a practical approach to speeding up and making more efficient a right that already exists.”

Currently, says Bonta, the expungement process unreasonably includes too many hurdles and delays.

Those who seek an expungement are forced to pay a fee, to hire an attorney, to take considerable time off from work for court appearances, and more.

WHAT WOULD ASSEMBLY BILL 1793 ACCOMPLISH?

Bonta’s proposal, Assembly Bill 1793, would require each county’s courts automatically to expunge criminal convictions as those convictions become eligible for expungement.

Californians who seek to expunge a conviction would no longer face a mountain of paperwork and the need to make multiple court appearances if Assembly Bill 1793 becomes law.

For those who qualify, most misdemeanor convictions and certain felony convictions can be expunged, but it will take some time, and it will require an attorney’s help.

IF YOU QUALIFY, WHEN SHOULD YOU START THE EXPUNGEMENT PROCESS?

Nevertheless, you should start the expungement process now.

AB 1793 is supported by social justice activists and by a number of pro-cannabis groups, but it remains unclear whether the proposal will become law this year.

A criminal conviction, even for a misdemeanor, can become a genuine obstacle to your educational, personal, and professional ambitions, but an expungement can open doors and create opportunities.

Criminal records are public and always have been public, but with the emergence of the internet, it’s easy now for almost anyone to check into almost anyone else’s personal background.

Expungement, however, will permanently seal your conviction record from the eyes of prospective employers, creditors, landlords, licensing boards, and from anyone else checking into your background.

CAN A FELONY CONVICTION BE EXPUNGED?

Expunging a conviction for a felony, when it’s possible at all in this state, is a two-step procedure. First, the felony conviction has to be lowered to a misdemeanor conviction.

Then the misdemeanor can be expunged. Not all felony convictions can be reduced, however. The original charge had to be a “wobbler,” that is, a charge than can be filed as a misdemeanor or as a felony.

Additionally, you had to be sentenced to probation for the felony conviction, and you had to complete that probation successfully.

If you were sentenced instead to a California state prison, that felony conviction cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor conviction.

But if you do qualify for expungement, it is best to start the process now. Do not let something that happened years ago stop you from finding the work or the housing you need today.

“If a person can have their past mistakes wiped clean without any danger to the rest of us, that should happen,” L.A. deputy public defender Nick Stewart-Oaten said.

WHAT CALIFORNIA COUNTIES ARE TAKING THEIR OWN ACTION?

Several local California officials are not waiting for the lawmakers in Sacramento. They’re taking action now to reduce felony convictions to misdemeanors and to expunge old misdemeanor convictions.

San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, for example, will review all of San Francisco County’s marijuana convictions since 1975.

That review may result in as many as 3,000 immediate conviction expungements and another 5,000 felony convictions reduced to misdemeanors.

And San Diego County will also review approximately 4,700 misdemeanor and felony convictions for expungement or reclassification, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Thousands of convicted offenders in California now have a unique opportunity to expunge an old conviction and to move forward constructively and positively with their lives.

Take advantage of that opportunity.

If you are one of the thousands who qualify to have a conviction expunged, contact an experienced Orange County criminal defense attorney for the sound legal guidance and the reliable help you’ll need.