On the eve of legalization of recreational marijuana in the state of Illinois, efforts are underway to automatically reverse tens of thousands of marijuana convictions. Already, hundreds of petitions have been presented to a judge for expungement.
To speed up the process, prosecutors are busily identifying cases of minor marijuana convictions, including misdemeanors and class 4 felonies, to automatically expunge these records.
Defendants who are part of the massive effort will be notified by mail that their conviction records have been cleared. Other individuals, including those who may have been convicted for possessing larger amounts of marijuana, must submit a petition to schedule a hearing to appear in court.
The expungement of a criminal conviction is not insignificant. Those with convictions on their records for even low level drug crimes often struggle to find employment, qualify for housing, or attend post-secondary schools because of their convictions. Removing a criminal record under Illinois recreational marijuana law will allow many who have had minor brushes with the law to start anew.
After all, many have already paid a heavy price for the war on drugs when considering not too long ago a single marijuana joint could land someone in jail for up to a year along with a hefty fine; higher amounts often were charged as a felonies punishable by up to a decade in prison.
The new recreational marijuana laws are set to take effect January 1 of 2020, which will allow Illinois residents 21 and older to possess up to 30 grams of marijuana without fear of prosecution.
For those who have past marijuana convictions, expungement of their criminal record may not be so clear cut. More often than not, there are related charges for which a defendant has been convicted that may also require attention. If you or a loved one has a marijuana conviction and are seeking to expunge your record in light of the new Illinois recreational marijuana law, contact criminal defense attorney Ronald L. Bell for assistance at 847-495-6000.