Mohave Valley Daily News reports
A statewide campaign by the Arizona Marijuana Expungement Coalition, entitled “Reclaim Your Future/Reclama tu Futuro,” has officially launched to assist eligible residents in clearing their criminal records of marijuana-related offenses.
During the next three years, Community Legal Services and the Arizona Justice Project will be running free legal clinics in Mohave County to provide legal education, services and representation to people seeking to expunge a prior marijuana conviction or arrest record.
“This program opens up a lot of opportunities for low-income Arizonans,” said Amanda Caldwell, managing attorney of CLS’ employment law unit.
Funding for the initiative is provided through Smart and Safe Arizona, also known as Prop 207.
Prop 207 legalized adult use of cannabis and allows prior arrest or conviction records for marijuana-related offenses to be expunged.
The campaign targets communities that are disproportionately impacted by Arizona’s drug laws, including rural residents and tribal communities.
Expungement means prior related conviction and arrest records will be sealed to the public.
Ordinarily, Arizona does not permit expungement of criminal records.
Instead, a person may petition the court to “set aside” past convictions, which then will be noted on public records.
Setting aside a felony conviction is an important step in restoring civil rights, such as gun rights, under Arizona law.
The process for expungement and setting aside convictions is not automatic and requires filing a petition with the court where a defendant was sentenced.
The types of legal assistance provided by AZMEC for Prop 207 expungement includes determining individual eligibility, assistance with filling court petitions and providing representation during any resulting litigation.
“The expungement process will likely take several months,” Caldwell said. “It currently takes between four to six months to set aside convictions.”
Residents interested in expunging their convictions will need to meet several requirements to qualify.
Expungement is limited to three types of offenses involving two and a half ounces or less of marijuana, six or fewer marijuana plants, and marijuana paraphernalia.
“We encourage people coming to our clinics to bring their court records, if they have them,” Caldwell said.
However, AZMEC is able to look up cases for individuals who no longer have their case numbers or other court records on hand.
“We can help you even if all you have is your name,” said Martin Hutchins of the Arizona Justice Project.
The Arizona Justice Project, which has been at the helm of AZMEC, is trying to raise awareness about the expungement process.
“A big concern is out-of-state residents,” said Lindsay Herf, the executive director of Arizona Justice Project, “There are a lot of people who came to Arizona for school or don’t live here anymore.”
The current plan for AZMEC partners is to hold clinics in Mohave County once a quarter, according to Caldwell.
In addition to expungement, CLS will continue to offer its normal set aside legal assistance services at the clinic.
Set aside legal assistance includes legal education about setting aside convictions, researching an individual’s case history and eligibility, providing blank copies of set aside petitions, and providing assistance filling out the petition.
The first Set Aside/Prop 207 Expungement Clinic will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Mohave County Library, Community Room A in Bullhead City. The library is located at 1170 E. Hancock Road.
More expungement information is available at https://azexpunge.org or 800-722-4026.