By Thomas Carver
Have you been watching states legalize and decriminalize cannabis across the nation and thought: where was this years ago when I picked up that possession charge? You’re not alone.
Thankfully, a new bill in Missouri opens the door to erasing a wide variety of prior criminal convictions for residents of the state.
Cannabis reform is clearly gaining ground across the country, but there are still scars from the strong-armed policies of the past. Regretfully, millions of Americans have to live with a permanent criminal record because of a simple marijuana possession charge. These prior convictions are often painful; they can disqualify you from employment and crush your sense of dignity and worth. Or even worse, you may have spent a significant time incarcerated as a result.
Missouri Senate Bill 588, which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, represents another gain in the progression towards legal fairness in the War on Drugs.
Law Provisions of SB 588
a. Petitions for expungement may be filed in any Missouri court in which such person was charged or found guilty.
b. Petitioners must list all offenses that he or she is seeking to have expunged.
g. The clerk of the court must give notice to the prosecuting attorney, circuit attorney or municipal court prosecuting of the appropriate court when a petition for expungement in Missouri has been filed. Once notified, the prosecuting authority has thirty days to object to theexpungement.
h. Expungement of arrest records cannot occur sooner than three years after an arrest.
i. Once an order of expungement is entered the underlying court file must be closed.
j. A person who has been granted an order of expungement may, with regard to the expunged conviction, answer “no” to an employer inquiry as to whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime unless the employer is required to exclude certain people with criminal convictions from employment. If a law mandates the employer to not hire convicted offenders the applicant must answer that they have been convicted of a crime.
k. A Missouri expungement filing fee of $250.00 must accompany a petition to expunge unless the applicant is certified to be a poor person.
Unless there is a special executive order or an additional amendment that would pass, it is likely that SB 588 won’t go in to effect until 2018.
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