THIS STORY HAS BEEN UPDATED.
June 28, 2020 – Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act or AUMA), which California voters passed in November 2016, allowed people with past marijuana convictions to petition the court for expungement or resentencing. AB 1793 (Bonta), to automatically expunge or resentence certain past marijuana crimes without requiring the filing of a petition, passed and was signed into law in 2018, and is codified as Ca Health & Safety Code 11361.9.
Under the new state law, the state Department of Justice had until July 1, 2019 to identify past convictions that are potentially eligible for recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation pursuant to Section 11361.8. The DOJ notified county District Attorneys of all cases in their jurisdiction that are eligible, and the prosecutors have until July 1, 2020 to review all cases and inform the court and the public defender’s office in their county that they are challenging a particular case.
The law states, “If the prosecution does not challenge the recall or dismissal of sentence, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation by July 1, 2020, the court shall reduce or dismiss the conviction pursuant to Section 11361.8. The court shall notify the DOJ and the department shall modify the state summary criminal history information database accordingly….The DOJ shall post general information on its Internet Web site about the recall or dismissal of sentences, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation authorized in this section.”
HOW ARE COUNTIES COMPLYING?
Even before the state law took effect, SF District Attorney George Gascon announced in February 2019 he would release over 9,000 past marijuana convictions for resentencing or expungement. After Gascon challenged Los Angeles DA Jackie Lacey for re-election, she announced LA will move to expunge 66,000 past convictions.
In Santa Clara County, a judge has already signed off on more than 13,000 marijuana convictions, affecting more than 9,000 people, well more than the 3,068 cases released by DOJ. Santa Cruz county’s DA announced he would release 1,169 marijuana cases involving 1,085 defendants, fewer than the 2,187 DOJ-released number.
Cal NORML legal committee attorneys Bill Panzer and Omar Figueroa point out that some marijuana crimes are still being charged as felonies, or not expunged, under Health and Safety Codes 11366 [maintaining a place] & § 11366.5 [storing], along with Penal Code Sections 182 [conspiracy], and 32 [accessory after the fact], not to mention civil asset forfeiture over marijuana. The DOJ sent a supplemental list of marijuana cases under these codes plus PC 644 [attempted crime], citing People v. Medina, which says a court has discretion in resentencing marijuana conspiracy crimes (while refusing to do so for defendant Medina, who had prior convictions and pleaded guilty to possession 35 pounds for sale). Another case, People v. Boatright allowed resentencing for marijuana cultivation despite 4 grams of methamphetamine being found on the site.
Humboldt County‘s DA chose to include H&SC 11366 & 11366.5 violations in releasing cases to the court; however, she released only half the number cases identified by DOJ. By contrast, Mendocino‘s DA released three times as many cases as DOJ found, using his own computer program to find eligible cases.
The Orange County Register reported that the LA DA’s is challenging 2,142 convictions flagged by the DOJ. Under the law, the public defender’s office, upon receiving notice from the DA, shall “make a reasonable effort to notify the person whose resentencing or dismissal is being challenged.” If the prosecution does not challenge the recall or dismissal of sentence, “the court shall notify the department [of justice],” which “shall post general information on its Internet Web site about the recall or dismissal of sentences, dismissal and sealing, or redesignation authorized in this section.”
Contra Costa County, which released cases for resentencing in January, has set up an email address where people may write to find out if their case is among those sent to the court. Sonoma County says, “To find out if your record has been cleared, contact the Law Offices of the Sonoma County Public Defender or the Sonoma County Superior Court.” The DOJ says, “If you are looking for information regarding a past conviction and want to know if the prosecuting agency is reviewing your case, please contact either the district attorney’s office or the public defender’s office in the county of conviction.” You can also request your own criminal record.
|DOJ Records Released 7/19||County|
|7,785||San Luis Obispo|