City of Seattle to Vacate Low-Level Marijuana Convictions

Approximately six years ago, Washington voters passed Initiative 502, legalizing the possession and recreational use of marijuana for those age 21 and over. Now, Seattle’s government is taking another major step in this process, moving to vacate low-level marijuana possession convictions.

City Attorney Pete Holmes and Mayor Jenny Durkan announced this decision last week, calling it the next step towards undoing years convictions for conduct that’s no longer against the law. Attorney Holmes hasn’t prosecuted low-level marijuana crimes since taking the office back in 2010, and it’s estimated that vacating these convictions would wipe out between 500 and 600 criminal charges, dating back to 1997. Marijuana possession arrests rose sharply over the period of the notorious “war on drugs,” from around 4,000 in 1986 to around 11,000 in the year 2010. Over that stretch, there were an estimated nearly quarter-million arrests.

Mayor Durkan’s office noted that these arrests have disproportionately affected minority communities, with African Americans being arrested at 2.9 times the rate of whites, and Latinos and Native Americans being arrested at 1.6 times the rate.

Seattle isn’t the first city to legalize marijuana consumption and possession, but this move allows it to join San Francisco as the only major metropolises in the country to move to vacate criminal convictions en masse. For years, the city has had a relaxed approach to low-level pot crimes, and the hopes are this is just the next step in erasing difficulty and restoring liberty to citizens.

What This Means for Your Record

If you have been convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge in roughly the last 20 years or so, there’s a chance your criminal conviction could be eligible to be overturned by this move. At the moment it’s unclear whether or not you’ll need to apply to have your record expunged or sealed, or whether this process will be done automatically.

However, if you are dealing with the consequences of having one of these low-level convictions on your record, you may be eligible to have your record cleared through expungement or record sealing. If you’d like to know more about this process, speak with a Snohomish County DUI attorney about your options. If a certain amount of time has passed since your conviction and you’ve maintained a clean record since then, you may be eligible to either have your record destroyed (expungement) or sealed away from public view so that it will no longer show up on criminal history checks.

It’s also important to note that this move to vacate marijuana convictions only applies to misdemeanor possession of marijuana charges. This means that any marijuana-driven DUI charges will not be eligible for this removal, and that you could still have to deal with one of these charges on your record, even if this motion comes to fruition. Even though marijuana consumption has been made legal, it’s still against the law for drivers to get behind the wheel while impaired.

If you are facing drug-related DUI charges, call the Law Office of Mark W. Garka, PLLC today at 888-252-1961 to request a case evaluation!

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