Monday, May 14, 2018

Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law School conducting expungement days for old misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses

CFJR-LOGO-and-text-larger-highresAs explained in this recent press release, the Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law School is taking an active role in helping Vermont's recent marijuana reform become consequential for persons with certain prior marijuana convictions. Here are the details (with links from the original):

Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill, Chittenden County State’s Attorney, Sarah George, and the Center for Justice Reform at Vermont Law School, invite community members convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses to Expungement Day, a free information session to assist individuals with removing convictions from their record. Expungement Day for Windsor County convictions will be held from 9 a.m. to Noon Saturday, June 9, in Oakes Hall, Room 012 at VLS.  Expungement Day for Chittenden County convictions will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday, June 12, in Courtroom 2C of the Costello Courthouse at 32 Cherry Street in Burlington. 

Effective July 1, Vermont law changes to allow for the personal possession of small amounts of marijuana by individuals age 21 and older. In recognition of this change and shifting attitudes about marijuana, the Windsor and Chittenden County State’s Attorneys have agreed to support the expungement of all old misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses that arose within Windsor and Chittenden County.  This does not apply to felony-level offenses, convictions for sale of marijuana, or any offenses that took place outside of Windsor or Chittenden County.   Cahill and George will support expungement regardless of any prior or subsequent convictions for other offenses. However, even after July 1, it will remain illegal to possess more than an ounce of marijuana, to use marijuana in a public place, or to drive under the influence of marijuana or any other drug.  These laws will continue to be enforced by police and prosecuted by the Windsor and Chittenden County State’s Attorneys. 

Under Vermont law, 13 VSA §7606, once a conviction is expunged, a person may lawfully claim that he or she was never arrested, convicted, or sentenced for the marijuana possession offense.  While Vermont affords these protections for expunged offenses, other states and the federal government may treat the effect of the expungement differently.

During each Expungement Day, Professor Robert Sand, director of the Center for Justice Reform, VLS students, and other volunteers will educate community members about how to complete an expungement petition.  Though volunteers will not provide legal advice, by the end of the session, participants will have a completed expungement petition ready for filing.  Both State’s Attorneys have agreed to accept the petitions and file them with their respective courts. 

“When a person has paid their debt by virtue of a criminal conviction, that should be finite — they shouldn’t keep paying” said Sand in a VPR interview earlier this year. “There is room within our judicial system — and it should be appropriately resourced — for court to be a place where rights are restored.”  Participants in Expungement Day should plan to bring valid, government-issued photo identification as well as any records they have related to their prior misdemeanor marijuana offense, to include the original docket number. For more information about Expungement Day, email [email protected]

Expungement Day is supported with a generous contribution by the Pennywise Foundation.

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