California to clear cannabis convictions information online Stoners surplus

California was supposed to clear cannabis conviction. Tens of thousands are still languishing

California was supposed to clear cannabis conviction

California to clear cannabis conviction online information California to clear cannabis conviction this year 2022 but tens of thousands are still languishing. On Jan 13 2022 cannabis news was published by KIERA FELDMAN at 5 Am PT concerning California conviction on cannabis. Sara Rodriguez, 39, has a marijuana conviction that’s nearly two decades old. Under state law, her felony should’ve been cleared from her record automatically. But Rodriguez is one of tens of thousands of Californians whose convictions are still languishing.

Nearly two decades ago, on a high desert road in San Bernardino county, Sara Rodriguez was pulled over and arrested with 10 small packets of cannabis in her car. She was later convicted of a felony, possession of drugs for sale and eventually spent more than 2years in prison.

In the years since, Rodriguez, 39, became the first in her family to go to college, and in June graduated from UCLA with a master’s degree in social welfare.
But Rodriguez still has a felony on her record — a potential black mark for employers and the state social work licensing board

When California voters legalized cannabis for recreational use in 2016, one promise was the creation of a legal pathway through the courts for clearing many past marijuana-related convictions or reducing them to a lesser charge.

It was a step championed by reform advocates, meant to right many of the injustices inflicted by the nation’s war on drugs that was disproportionately waged on poor people and communities of color.

But despite a low passed on 2018, to speed up and automate the process, tens of thousands of Californians like Rodriguez are still stuck with felonies, misdemeanors and other convictions on their records a Los Angeles Times investigation found.

Additionally, At least 34,000 marijuana records still have not been fully processed by the courts, according to an analysis of data provided by court officials throughout the state. The number was more than twice that in August, before The Times began questioning the slow processing times.

The delays in clearing drug charges can have dire consequences for those seeking employment, professional licensing, housing, loans and in other instances in which background checks are required.

The courts have emerged as the primary bottleneck in a process that has entangled the state Department of Justice and prosecutors’ offices in 58 counties. Although a number of counties have moved aggressively to clear records, many others have moved at a snail’s pace. Some courts — including in Riverside and San Bernardino, where Rodriguez was convicted — haven’t fully processed a single case

Court officials blamed a combination of factors for delays, including COVID-19, staffing shortages, outdated case management systems, old records that require manual review and technical issues.

San Bernardino County Superior Court “was severely impacted by COVID-19 with being partially closed for 75 days, and experienced staffing shortages, illnesses and quarantining, along with severe budget reductions,” spokeswoman Julie Van Hook wrote in an email.

But many advocates see the delays as a continuation of a long pattern of failing to address the disparate impact of drug policies on people of color, especially for Black Californians, who for decades have had the highest arrest rates in the state.

“When it’s an issue that is largely impacting Black people, we move slowly on getting things done,” said Eliana Green, an attorney at the Hood Incubator, which advocates for racial and economic equity in the cannabis industry.

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, who authored the law to clear criminal records while he served in the state Legislature, acknowledged problems with its implementation.

California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, who authored the legislation to clear felony information whereas he served within the state Legislature, acknowledged issues with its implementation. Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

“It’s not acceptable. It’s taking too long,” Bonta instructed The Times in an interview.

About 117,000 Californians have gotten authorized aid for his or her marijuana convictions, Bonta stated, however the state has confronted important challenges, significantly given the shortage of a centralized statewide information system.

“What a shame!” stated Felicia Carbajal, govt director of the Social Impact Center in Los Angeles. “The community deserves better than the half measures we’re seeing on this.”

Many public defenders and district attorneys shared comparable considerations that the state’s effort lacked the required assets and expertise to succeed. Yolo County Dist. Atty. Jeff Reisig described the court docket report methods in California as “totally screwed up.”

communicate with one another. They barely communicate with DOJ,” Reisig stated. “You have 58 counties in California and each one is like its own state.”

The 2018 legislation — Assembly Bill 1793 — was imagined to clear previous hashish convictions end masse, getting rid of the necessity to file particular person court docket petitions — an onerous course of that few Californians undertook, whether or not for lack of assets or consciousness it was an possibility. The burden was positioned on the state to automate the method of figuring out eligible instances, updating information, and dismissing and sealing a lot of them so they don’t seem on background checks.

The trailblazing legislation was the primary within the nation to supply computerized report clearance for marijuana convictions. At least six different states seemed to California and modeled comparable laws.

“The vision,” stated Bonta, was “that the government should have a primary and central role in delivering the existing rights to people, instead of making them go fight for it and find it and take 10 different steps.”

The justice division dispatched district attorney’s 191,055 potentially eligible marijuana cases for assessment. Their deadline was July 1, 2020, to ship instances to the courts, and most counties complied.

But the legislation didn’t give California’s 58 superior courts a deadline to finish everything as required : updating case information and transmitting them again to the DOJ, which maintains the statewide felony historical past database and responds to background checks.

The Times collected knowledge from greater than three dozen superior courts across the state and located many counties are shifting slowly. Riverside County Superior Court has not absolutely processed any of its 21,000 instances.

Many courts have been at various phases: For instance, Alameda County has processed 58% of instances, and Santa Cruz County 39%. Kern County is at 18%.

Kern County officers cited technical glitches for the delay in getting instances to the DOJ. Santa Cruz officers stated their progress had stalled as a result of the court docket was awaiting a software program repair from their report administration system vendor.

Some counties have fared higher. Pandemic however, Santa Clara completed its 11,500 instances in April 2020. Los Angeles completed processing 66,000 instances in late 2021.

The delays should not because of lack of funding. The courts obtained $16.83 million from the state price range to pay for the prices of processing information, comparable to staffing and growth of knowledge expertise. The Judicial Council of California, which oversees the superior courts, distributed the cash among the many counties, however a consultant stated the company doesn’t monitor how the funds are used or how a lot progress the courts have made.

Rodriguez graduated from UCLA in June with a grasp’s diploma in social welfare. She traveled to the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department workplaces to get paperwork for her software to the state social work licensing board. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

The Inland Empire has amongst the bottom clearance charges within the state.

In San Bernardino County, Rodriguez’s felony conviction was one in every of about 5,400 hashish instances that have been primarily gathering mud. After questions from The Times, the court docket started reviewing information on the finish of 2021, however not one of the instances have been accomplished, a consultant confirmed.

Riverside County Superior Court Chief Deputy of Operations Carrie Snuggs pointed to “overall backlogs related to the pandemic,” technical points and insufficient staffing.

Authorities there had completed reviewing a couple of thousand misdemeanors and infractions however all 17,400 felonies remained. And the court docket hadn’t despatched even the misdemeanors and infractions to the DOJ due to an obvious misunderstanding of instructions, The Times discovered. (After questions from The Times, the DOJ stated it was helping the court docket in its first transmission of instances.)

“It’s not a priority. This is something that has been mandated by law and they’re still not doing it,” stated Shaun LeFlore, an organizer in Riverside with the group All of Us or None, which advocates for previously incarcerated individuals. “For those 21,000 people in Riverside or 5,400 people in San Bernardino, they deserve to have their life back.”

When Rodriguez obtained out of jail, “a felony really felt like dream crushing,” she stated. She was turned down for jobs and, if she hadn’t lived along with her mother, in all probability would have been turned down for housing. Many communities in California have “crime-free housing” insurance policies, which regularly stress landlords to exclude tenants with felony backgrounds. And individuals will be denied public housing or Section 8 vouchers for drug convictions.

But Rodriguez discovered a spot in increased schooling and attended Cal Poly Pomona, the place she joined a program referred to as Project Rebound, a assist community for previously incarcerated college students at Cal State faculties. She and her associates within the group helped each other navigate housing and jobs, main her to pursue a graduate diploma at UCLA.

Rodriguez speaks at a mixer for Project Rebound, which helps previously incarcerated college students on Cal State campuses. After spending greater than two years in jail, Rodriguez discovered a spot for herself in increased schooling and went on to obtain a graduate diploma at UCLA. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times)

Yet she apprehensive that her profession might hit roadblocks till her felony conviction was downgraded to a misdemeanor.

“I just feel very overwhelmed and stuck,” Rodriguez stated. “I was under the impression that this would happen automatically, but it’s not.”

Under one other recent state lows , the social work licensing board not less than in idea can’t deny her software primarily based on her conviction alone. But actuality might be a distinct matter, she stated, and a misdemeanor seems to be rather a lot higher than a felony.

Many advocates stated the lag in clearing information hits Black and Latino communities particularly onerous. While nationwide studies show marijuana utilization is roughly the identical amongst white, Black and Latino individuals, in 2015 in California, the marijuana arrest charges for Latinos have been 1.4 occasions increased than white individuals, and Black Californians have been arrested at 3 ½ occasions the speed of white individuals, based on a 2016 report by Drug Policy Alliance. That 12 months, Black individuals have been practically 5 occasions extra possible than white individuals to be arrested for a marijuana felony, the report discovered.

“It creates a permanent underclass. By not purging marijuana records, we’re helping to foster poverty [for Black and brown people],” stated lawyer Vonya Quarles, govt director of Starting Over, which offers providers for previously incarcerated individuals within the Inland Empire and Los Angeles. “The types of jobs that are available to people with felony convictions are not as good as the types of jobs that are available to people without them.”

Under AB1793, which utilized retroactively for marijuana convictions primarily based on possession, sale, cultivation and transportation, prosecutors had quite a lot of discretion: They might problem instances recognized by the DOJ and have been free so as to add extra names to the listing of those that certified for aid. Many prosecutors downgraded felonies to misdemeanors; and the misdemeanors and infractions — which have been now not unlawful underneath Prop 64 — they dismissed and sealed.

Sealing a case signifies that the conviction is wiped from the general public report. In that sense, it’s “cleared.”

In Los Angeles, former Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey, dealing with a reform challenger within the November 2020 election, introduced she would petition the court docket to seal all 66,000 marijuana instances.

L.A. County Superior Court accomplished information updating and despatched the majority of its instances to the DOJ in April, a consultant stated. California to clear cannabis convictions

Statewide, the DOJ has but to seal about 10,000 instances, and 4,000 of these convictions are from L.A.

But the DOJ has developed methods to bypass some potential issues, officers stated. For instance, some background checks that undergo the DOJ — comparable to these for public housing and employment — are flagged to expedite sealing marijuana convictions if they seem.

Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Nick Stewart-Oaten stated the courts, the DOJ and police have but to totally synchronize info. He stated he’s conscious of not less than two instances during which individuals have been jailed and falsely accused of felonies as a result of their marijuana convictions hadn’t been up to date at both the state or native degree.

This fall, Lacey’s successor, George Gascón, announced that his workplace had unearthed a further 58,000 hashish convictions and would petition that they be sealed. California to clear cannabis convictions

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón introduced that he plans to petition that a further 58,000 marijuana convictions be sealed. Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Alameda County, which incorporates Oakland, didn’t ship its first batch of instances to the DOJ till June 2021, court docket officers stated. Only 4,718 court docket information have been up to date and transmitted to date, with 3,438 instances remaining.

Alameda Court Executive Officer Chad Finke stated the court docket has been short-staffed through the pandemic and hiring has been tough. The remaining instances require guide assessment as a lot of them are outdated or not within the court docket’s digital report system, Finke stated. California to clear cannabis convictions

“Meanwhile, those staff that we do have in our Criminal division have other work that they must perform every day to ensure that defendants’ rights are protected, deadlines are met, etc.,” Finke wrote in an e-mail. California to clear cannabis convictions

One of the languishing marijuana instances in Alameda belonged to Justin, who requested to be recognized by his nickname to keep away from questions from his employer.

He was arrested at 18 after he stated cops caught him carrying simply over an oz of weed in a Mason jar. In 2007, he was convicted of felony marijuana possession and sentenced to 3 years of probation.

After probation, the court docket diminished Justin’s felony to a misdemeanor. Until just lately, he had no thought legal guidelines have been on the books that ought to have wiped his report clear. California to clear cannabis convictions

He apprehensive his felony report would get in the best way of securing a visa to work overseas. Eventually, he linked with an lawyer at Oakland-based Root & Rebound, who helped him petition the court docket. The course took about 4 months, and in mid-October, his report was cleared.

“There was a certain disservice being done,” Justin, 33, stated. “Not only was it not automatic, there was never any transparency about the process.” California to clear cannabis convictions

It took San Diego County Superior Court till the top of September — greater than a 12 months and a half — to complete reviewing 35,662 information. Nearly 26,000 of these convictions have been felonies. During the pandemic, creating digital courtrooms, digital submitting and livestreaming hearings “have taken priority and resources,” court docket spokeswoman Julie Myres stated in an e-mail.

But by mid-November, not one of the instances had been despatched to the Department of Justice to replace its felony historical past database, officers stated. Since then, the DOJ stated it assisted San Diego on its first profitable transmission. (San Diego just lately despatched 25,550 instances to the DOJ, officers stated.) California to clear cannabis convictions

San Diego obtained $2.196 million from the state in anticipation of requiring intensive clerical assets for the marijuana information, however the court docket solely spent about $28,000, based on Judicial Council knowledge. The court docket created laptop packages that almost eradicated the necessity for clerks, Myres stated, and the leftover cash shall be returned to the state.

In December, the state Department of Justice despatched out a bulletin imploring prosecutors and courts to hurry up.

“We urge prosecuting agencies and courts to prioritize implementation of the cannabis resentencing process … so Californians can promptly obtain the relief to which they are entitled under the law,” the bulletin stated. California to clear cannabis convictions

Bonta stated his company is reaching out to the courts to supply assets and assist to “make sure there’s clarity on the system.”

“We’re learning from this how better systems can lead … to real on-the-ground impacts for real people,” Bonta stated. “It’s an important lesson and we need to do better.” California to clear cannabis convictions

Rodriguez chats with associates at a latest Project Rebound occasion in Northridge. The program helps previously incarcerated college students see how a lot is feasible of their lives even with felony information, Rodriguez stated. (Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times).

Meanwhile, Rodriguez just lately contacted the general public defender’s workplace in San Bernardino County to start submitting a petition on her personal. They warned her the method would take six to eight months.

The social work licensing board software had a whole part asking her to elucidate her felony. Knowing the long-ago conviction will nonetheless present up in a compulsory background examine, she drafted a protracted narrative about her marijuana arrest, her jail time, her rehabilitation and the numerous awards and achievements she’s racked up since.

“It’s a lot of work always having to explain myself,” Rodriguez stated. Eventually, she hoped, she wouldn’t should

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.