L.A. County DA says 66,000 marijuana convictions will be dismissed

L.A. County District Attorney Jackie Lacey announced that 66,000 marijuana convictions will soon be dismissed in terms of Proposition 64.

The dismissals are the result of a partnership between the DA's Office and the nonprofit Code for America, according to a joint statement.

Code for America uses computer algorithms to find eligible cases that are otherwise hard to find in court documents that date back decades.

"Today's action marks the completion of the five-county Clear My Record pilot to clear marijuana-related convictions eligible for relief under Proposition 64. The other counties in the pilot include San Francisco, Sacramento, San Joaquin and Contra Costa,'' according to a joint statement.

"In total, these five pilots will help reduce or dismiss more than 85,000 Proposition 64-eligible convictions.

Lacey said that "the dismissal of tens of thousands of old cannabis-related convictions in Los Angeles County will bring much-needed relief to communities of color that disproportionately suffered the unjust consequences of our nation's drug laws. I am privileged to be part of a system dedicated to finding innovative solutions and implementing meaningful criminal justice reform that gives all people the support they need to build the life they deserve.''

Evonne Silva, Code for America's Senior Program Director of Criminal Justice added "Today's action marks the completion of our California Clear My Record pilot, through which we will have helped to dismiss and seal more than 85,000 marijuana convictions across the state.

"This is a clear demonstration that automatic record clearance is possible at scale and can help to right the wrongs of the failed war on drugs. Looking forward, Code for America stands at the ready to help all California counties provide this much needed relief'' in advance of a July 1, 2020 deadline, said Silva.

Prosecutors this week asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to dismiss 62,000 felony cannabis convictions for cases that date back to 1961, the statement said. The District Attorney's Office also sought the dismissal of approximately 4,000 misdemeanor cannabis possession cases that included cases filed in 10 Los Angeles County cities: Los Angeles, Long Beach, Torrance, Pasadena, Inglewood, Burbank, Santa Monica, Hawthorne, Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach.

Approximately 53,000 individuals will receive conviction relief through this partnership. Of those, approximately 32% are black, 20% are white, 45% are Latinx, and 3% are other or unknown, according to the statement.

Proposition 64 identifies three health and safety code sections that qualified for resentencing: cultivation of marijuana, possession for sale of marijuana and sales and/or transport of marijuana, all felonies. The law also includes dismissing possession of marijuana, a misdemeanor.

Lacey, who is running to be reelected, used additional criteria to go beyond the parameters of the new law to ensure the greatest number of dismissals, according to the statement. Those expanded parameters include persons who are 50 years or older, haven't had a felony conviction in the past 10 years or have successfully completed probation for cannabis convictions.

Based on this criteria, Code for America created a unique algorithm for the DA's office in order to fast-track the identification of eligible
convictions. This technology can analyze eligibility for thousands of convictions in seconds, alleviating the need for DA staff to go through state criminal records one by one to evaluate eligibility, saving time and significant resources.

In California, all county District Attorney's Offices are required to implement AB 1793 by July 1, 2020. Earlier this year, Code for America launched its new Clear My Record Application and Implementation Blueprint, available at no cost and open source to all California counties. These resources allow every district attorneys' office to expedite and streamline review of Proposition 64 convictions.

"Code for America has received an overwhelming interest from counties in accessing these resources to carry out the law,'' according to the statement. Code for America stands ready to work with counties that have not yet used this technology to help them automate the record clearance process and provide relief as required by law.''

The current record clearance process was not designed to reach everyone who is eligible, according to the statement. With the current petition-based process, eachperson seeking relief must petition the court to clear their records, but this is a time-consuming, expensive, and confusing process. Only 3% of those eligible for relief under Proposition 64 have received it.

To find out a record has been cleared, or for more information about this initiative, people affected should contact the Los Angeles County Public Defender's Office by phone at 323-760-6763 or visit http://pubdef.lacounty.gov.