One of the big selling points of Amendment 3 was the expungement of previous offenses for marijuana-related charges that were made legal by the amendment.
Reportedly, Missouri is the first state to include an expungement program as part of its recreational marijuana use law.
The vacation and expungement process is fairly complex and differs based on your situation and isn’t available to some, depending on your conviction.
Under the amendment, individuals currently serving time in a prison, jail or halfway house, who would not have been guilty of an adult or juvenile offense, or who would have been guilty of a lesser adult or juvenile charge, if Amendment 3 had been the law when they were convicted, can petition the court to have their charges vacated. In Missouri, vacating a sentence means the court will withdraw your guilty plea or set aside your guilty verdict and dismiss the charge.
The amendment also includes expungement, which allows the petitioner to maintain that he or she has not been convicted of the crime that was expunged.
If approved, the individual can immediately be released. However, a judge can deny a request for “good cause.” What exactly constitutes “good cause” is not identified in any way in the amendment.
Individuals serving a marijuana offense which is a misdemeanor, a class E or D felony, involving possession of three pounds or less of marijuana are eligible for this process. Not eligible are individuals serving time involving distribution or delivery to a minor, any offense involving violence or any offense of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana are eligible to have their sentence vacated.
The state public defender’s offices and the circuit courts of the states will make the form available to eligible individuals, but they will not provide services to help individuals complete the forms. However, filing fees for the expungement will be waived.
Individuals who are eligible should get moving quickly, and try to find some support in completing the forms. According to the amendment, all of these cases involving just misdemeanor charges must be heard within 90 days of the effective date of the amendment, or early March. All cases involving class E felony charges must be adjudicated within 180 days and cases involving class D felonies must be adjudicated within 270 days.
Vacation & Expungement – not currently serving time
If you’re currently on parole or probation and meet most of the above requirements, Amendment 3 says on the effective day of the amendment (Dec. 8) their sentence will automatically be vacated by the sentencing court, and their supervision will be immediately terminated.
Considering the short turn-around between the vote on Nov. 8 and Dec. 8, making this happen seems like a difficult task to accomplish. Missouri Dept. of Health and Senior Services staff say they have been preparing in advance for the passage of the amendment, so they may make the amendment’s deadline.
However, if they don’t. The benefits should still be great when they’re put in place.
In addition to vacation, this program also includes expungement.
This process continues with expungement for individuals who are off parole or probation with misdemeanor charges being handled first followed by felonies.
Expungement – larger quantities
For all class A, B & C felony marijuana offenses, and for all class D felony marijuana offenses for possession of more than three pounds of marijuana, the Missouri circuit courts will order expungement of a criminal history record when the person completes their incarceration, including any supervised probation or parole.
The court will provide notice of the expungements issued under the terms of the amendment to the person at the person’s last known address, the arresting agency, prosecuting attorney and central state depository of criminal records, who will notify the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. The individual will be provided a certificate stating that the offense has been expunged.