On January 31, 2018, District Attorney George Gascón announced that the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office would proactively provide conviction relief, with existing resources, to thousands of individuals with marijuana convictions, dating as far back as 1975. The office took this step to reduce barriers to housing and employment to level the playing the field for those adversely affected by the criminalization of marijuana. A 2017 study of East Bay Community Law Center’s clients showed that record clearance increased an individual’s average earnings by 33%.
This proactive marijuana conviction relief policy, the first in the nation, negates the need for those eligible to be made aware of the opportunity and retain a lawyer to file the necessary paperwork. Many of those affected lack the resources required to change their criminal record on their own. Researchers estimate that to date, only 3% of eligible individuals in California have applied for relief under Proposition 64, which legalized the possession and recreational use of marijuana for adults.
Traditionally, determining eligibility for conviction relief and filing motions to expunge, dismiss, or reclassify convictions has been a manual, paper-based, and resource intensive process that requires significant time for prosecutors’ offices to complete. To address this challenge, the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office partnered with Code for America, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, which uses principles and practices of the digital age to transform the way government delivers services to those most impacted by the criminal justice system.
Code for America’s new approach automatically and securely determines eligibility for record clearance under state law and automatically generates a completed and signed motion that may be electronically filed.
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