Can a Marijuana Conviction Be Expunged in Arizona?
There was a time when crimes related to marijuana carried stiff penalties in the state of Arizona, but that has changed. Marijuana expungement is now looming as a possibility for many individuals who were incarcerated due to drug-related offenses.
It’s important to know about the changes that have been made to Arizona’s marijuana laws and if they could apply to your case or a loved one’s situation. There may be a chance that you are granted a fresh start thanks to the state’s new marijuana laws.
Expunging a previous conviction can be beneficial to you in so many ways. Find out if you’re eligible and how to proceed by continuing with the rest of this article.
The Changes Caused by Proposition 207
During the most recent general election, most Arizona residents voted “yes” on Proposition 207, which is also known as the Smart and Safe Arizona Act. The passage of Proposition 207 is a big deal because of how it affects the state’s marijuana laws.
The biggest change enacted by Proposition 207 is legalizing the adult use of marijuana in Arizona. Per the new laws, adults over the age of twenty-one are now legally permitted to possess, use, and even transfer up to one ounce of marijuana.
Even growing your own marijuana plants is now legal, although there are still limitations placed on that activity.
Given how many actions that were considered criminal have now been legalized, the state is moving to rectify their records as well. That can happen through marijuana expungement.
Qualifications for Marijuana Expungement in Arizona
The state of Arizona has already moved forward with plans to expunge the records of individuals who have marijuana-related crimes on their records. However, Arizona residents should know that not all marijuana-related crimes will be expunged. Even Proposition 207 sets limits on how much marijuana an adult can carry at any given time.
So, what are the previous marijuana crimes that can be expunged from the records thanks to Proposition 207? Let’s discuss them in the following section.
Possessing, Using, and/or Transporting Marijuana
Violations related to possessing, using, and transporting marijuana may soon be expunged from Arizona’s criminal records. Some conditions must be met first, however.
First off, the amount of marijuana that was found in a person’s possession either for use or transport must be no greater than two and a half ounces. The marijuana in a person’s possession should also contain no more than 12.5 grams of marijuana concentrate.
Marijuana expungement may not be an option for offenders who were carrying around more than those amounts.
Possessing, Transporting, Growing, or Processing Marijuana Plants
Growing your own marijuana plants is now legal in Arizona. Thanks to the passage of Proposition 207, adults over the age of twenty-one can now grow their own marijuana plants at home.
Adults can cultivate up to six marijuana plants in their home if they are kept in an enclosed space secured by a device that prevents minors from getting to them. If you share a home with another adult, the two of you can grow up to twelve marijuana plants, but no more than that.
The marijuana plants being cultivated should also be for personal use only.
If you were found guilty of growing marijuana plants in the past, you could get your conviction expunged as well The conviction can be expunged if you were cultivating no more than six plants. You must also prove that you were growing the plants for personal use only if you want the conviction expunged.
Expungement is also possible for individuals who were transporting or processing marijuana plants.
Possessing, Using, or Transporting Paraphernalia for Growing, Processing, or Consuming Marijuana
Charges may have been filed against you after marijuana paraphernalia were found in your possession. That charge may have stuck with you for a long time, but you can now have it expunged from your record.
Marijuana Crimes Not Eligible for Expungement
Not all marijuana-related violations can be lifted from the records via expungement. We already discussed some of the limitations on expungement above.
In addition to them, marijuana-related actions that are considered crimes after the passage of Proposition 207 will also not be eligible for expungement.
For example, if you were caught driving under the influence of marijuana in the past, that conviction will stay on your record. Also, note that using marijuana inside your vehicle even if you are not driving is prohibited by the law.
Smoking marijuana in public is also not allowed. You cannot use marijuana in any public space such as a restaurant or shopping mall. Using marijuana in any open space also remains illegal.
Selling marijuana, you grow is also not allowed in many instances. Individuals can only sell the marijuana they cultivate if they have been licensed to operate as either a medical marijuana dispensary or as a marijuana establishment.
Unfortunately, if you committed any of the crimes mentioned in this section, your record will still show that violation in the future. Marijuana expungement will not be an option for you.
The Process of Marijuana Expungement
After determining that you or someone you know qualifies for marijuana expungement, you can start working on getting those blemishes removed from Arizona’s records.
Right now, the only thing you can do is wait. Although the new laws in Proposition 207 took effect a while ago, expunging records related to marijuana offenses is not an option at the moment. The state has already determined that the process of expunging crimes related to marijuana will begin on July 12, 2021.
While waiting for that day, you can take this opportunity to learn how the process will work.
Filing a Petition
The process starts with filing a petition.
If you are planning to file a petition, now is a good time to look for an attorney. It’s important to partner up with an attorney who is knowledgeable when it comes to Arizona’s marijuana laws. They can verify if you do qualify for expungement.
A qualified and highly skilled attorney can also help you draw up your petition. Their assistance can also prove vital later in the process.
Waiting for a Response
After filing the petition to the court, they will notify the prosecution agency of your filing. At this point, you will need to wait for the prosecutors to respond. The court will give the prosecutors’ 30 days to respond to your petition.
The Court May Set a Hearing
Your expungement process may go in a few different directions from here.
Upon examining your records, the court may decide that there are matters that need to be clarified before deciding. In that case, they will likely invite you to attend a hearing.
Arranging a hearing is also an option for both you and the prosecutor. You can make your case in court for why your record should be expunged while the prosecutor can argue against it.
The Court Grants Your Petition
There’s a chance that a hearing is not set up in your case. The court may decide that you are eligible for expungement and grant your petition right then and there. That can happen if the prosecutor also does not contest your petition being granted.
The Court Does Not Grant Your Petition
There is also a chance that the court will not grant your petition. The prosecutor may present evidence in your case indicating that you should not be eligible for expungement and the court may accept it.
The Court Issues a Signed Order
The court will eventually issue a signed order indicating whether your petition was granted. This order will also feature the findings in your case.
File an Appeal
It’s certainly possible that the court will not rule in your favor, but don’t lose hope yet. You can still file an appeal at this point and hope to get your record expunged.
Some may opt not to hire an attorney during the original expungement process, but it’s necessary if you’re filing an appeal. The appeal may be your last shot to be cleared so you must get it right.
The Benefits of Marijuana Expungement
You may be wondering if going through the expungement process is worth it. If you’ve already served your sentence and you’re free, you may see it as a bothersome process that’s not worth your time.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide whether expungement is worth the effort, but there are real benefits you can gain from it. Let’s talk more about what those benefits are below.
Your Record Is Wiped Clean
A lot of people confuse expungements with pardons, but they are not the same thing. Expunging a conviction means that your crime will no longer be on record. The conviction will be vacated, and you will be given a chance to effectively start over.
Many individuals who get out of jail or prison don’t have that opportunity. Their convictions will always stay with them and that can be a problem if they are looking for a job, an apartment, or trying to secure a loan.
Post-expungement, your record will be clean, and you can enjoy the benefits that come with that.
Your Old Record Will Only Be Made Accessible to You
Some folks who run background checks are persistent. You may be worried that someone would learn something about your past conviction if they dug around long enough.
That will not happen if you get your conviction expunged.
All the records about your previous conviction will be sealed by the clerk of the court. Records detailing expunged convictions are only accessible to the person who had it cleared in the first place.
In essence, expunging your record gives you a chance to put your past behind you.
Your Civil Rights Will Be Restored
Being convicted of a crime can lead to your civil rights being taken away. You cannot enjoy the same type of freedom that others do. To restore your civil rights, you need to go through the process of expungement.
Notably, though, expungement won’t restore your civil rights if you had other convictions that cannot be cleared.
The Limitations of Expungement
Once your records are expunged, your records will be completely cleared. The crimes you were charged with will no longer be on record in Arizona or any other part of the country.
From a legal standpoint, you are completely cleared, but that doesn’t mean that your conviction has been completely forgotten.
As we all know, some records are harder to erase. Reports about your arrest that made it online may stay there. Expunging your record does not automatically clean everything.
Furthermore, the courts cannot control everything. They cannot order entities not involved in the legal process to take down articles or posts about your conviction simply through the process of expungement.
What you can do as someone who wants their name cleared is to file additional motions with the court to have those articles or posts taken down. Those motions are not always successful though and even then, there is nothing stopping someone from posting about your cleared conviction in the future.
Expungement is still well worth your time and effort given how it benefits your daily life and legal standing, but it won’t magically undo everything.
How an Attorney Can Help
Many of the steps you need to undertake if you want your records cleared can be complicated, and difficult to navigate if you are not familiar with the legal process.
Partnering with an attorney is an absolute must if you want the process to go smoothly. Certain elements in your case may also prompt prosecutors to object to your record being expunged. That’s another instance where having a good attorney on your side will prove incredibly helpful.
Now that Arizona is relaxing its laws about marijuana, the time is also right for you to have your record cleared. Contact us today at the Schill Law Group and allow us to help with your marijuana expungement efforts.