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Expungement And Other Criminal Justice Reforms Adopted Across The Country

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missouri hb 511 hb 512By Dan Viets, J.D., SMCR Board Chair

Last year, the Republican majority in both the Missouri House and Senate adopted important criminal justice reforms, including reducing by one half the length of time that many people convicted of drug felonies are under probation supervision, substantially reducing the disparity in crack and powder cocaine sentencing and expanding the use of expungement to include several non-drug related offenses, including some felonies. Most observers would not have predicted any of those actions at the beginning of the legislative session one year ago, especially because 2012 was an election year.

That is why the two bills filed by Rep. Rory Ellinger which would reduce penalties for marijuana and paraphernalia possession and which would expand expungement to include those offenses really do have a chance of passing this year.

House Bill 511 would expand expungement to include misdemeanor marijuana and paraphernalia offenses as well as many other non-violent, non sex-related offenses. House Bill 512 would prohibit arrest and eliminate the possibility of jail for misdemeanor marijuana and paraphernalia charges and would encourage the courts to make greater use of Suspended Imposition of Sentence (SIS) probation which leaves the Defendant without a conviction and without a public criminal record.

Both of these bills reflect trends which are taking place across the country. According to a report issued in January by The Sentencing Project, several states reduced the penalties for marijuana and other prohibited substance offenses last year. In addition to the legalization measures passed by voters in Colorado and Washington, several states reduced drug sentences. Those states include Georgia, Kansas, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and Oklahoma.

In addition to Missouri, several other states also expanded the availability of expungement of criminal records. Those states include Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.

The advent of the internet and access to databases that make criminal records easily available to the general public have greatly increased the collateral consequences of a criminal prosecution. As long as those records remain public, every employer, lender, and landlord that the Defendant encounters for the rest of his or her life may deny the defendant employment, loans or a place to live because of a conviction that may have occurred many years ago, and that has nothing to do with the ability of that individual to work, repay a loan or be a good tenant.

We hope to soon be able to report that these bills have been assigned to committees for hearing. We will keep you informed of further developments as they occur. Please do not delay in contacting those who represent you in the Missouri General Assembly.

We should all do our best to persuade our state Senators and Representatives to support Rep. Ellinger’s bills.

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7 Comments

  1. In Kansas our Senator Pat will not even have a hearing on SB9 which is the bill for medical marajunana , we try to call her and she will not answer , wish they would get their heads out of their asses and really listen

  2. Things are changing, I was caught shipping 8 and a half pounds home to myself in GA from a medi state where

    I had lived at the time and was charged with Delivery of Marijuana, Which is a federal offense. Ga is known to have some of the harshest penalties in the nation, Lucky for me that I had no prior record along with a valid cannabis script that allowed me 19 pounds a year for my medical condition.Along with the great work of my lawyer I was charged a $1000 fine and 5 years probation, Under being charged as a first offender, after 5 years my record we be expunged. If I screw up during probation the state will enforce the full 10 year sentence. I am a very lucky man.

  3. There are those that were voted in to positions of power that need to be voted out because they presume to know better than the voters, and represent their own personal prejudices rather than the voters will.

  4. In WA state this week, HB 1661 emerged from committee and was sent to the full house. It allows a person convicted of a misdemeanor marijuana offense (under 40 grams) to apply to the sentencing court for a vacation of the applicant’s record of conviction for the offense.

  5. Christopher Bernard on

    For all my Pennsylvanian peeps, there is a new bill (Bill 391) that will help lots of people looking for expungement after 7 to 10 years. There is a lot of information at http://pa-expungement-now.com you can look at, so check it out.

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