Sonoma County, California is clearing 2,735 low-level cannabis convictions for more than 2,000 people, county District Attorney Jill Ravitch announced on Friday. The convictions were identified by the county using the state-wide software application “Clear My Record.”
With the passage of Proposition 64 in California in 2016, some crimes that had previously been categorized as felonies was re-designated misdemeanors, while crimes that had previously been characterized as misdemeanors were re-designated as either punishable as an infraction or no longer illegal. The ballot initiative included provisions giving individuals with prior cannabis convictions the right to petition courts to re-classify their convictions or to have their convictions dismissed altogether if the underlying charge is no longer considered a crime.
In 2018, the California legislature passed a law requiring the state Department of Justice to review state criminal history and identify those charged with now-legal cannabis-related crimes after few filed petitions to clear the charges from their record.
Using the Clear My Record software, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office identified 2,110 individuals eligible for relief. Of those, 427 had misdemeanor convictions eligible for complete dismissal, and 1,713 had felony convictions eligible for reduction to misdemeanors.
However, Ravitch said she is going to dismiss all of the cases, rather than reduce the felonies and dismiss the misdemeanors. She said her office “has been very committed to working with those individuals seeking relief from marijuana convictions” but that “the process has often been slow, and the reach has been narrow.”
“As a result, we have undertaken a thorough review of all cases identified by Code for America’s software program Clear My Record and determined that the only way to truly provide justice for these individuals is to go beyond the requirements of the statute and provide complete dismissal in each of the cases. We understand the burden that has been placed on individuals, families, and communities as a result of cannabis convictions. I do not believe this is consistent with the values of the overwhelming number of people of Sonoma County, and therefore, we are taking aggressive steps to assist those affected.” – Ravitch in a statement
San Francisco officials expunged 9,362 felony and misdemeanor cannabis convictions dating from as far back as 1975in 2019. Los Angeles, in February, expunged 62,000 felony convictions and 4,000 misdemeanor convictions dating back to 1961. Both cities used the Code for America software to identify the cases.