Marijuana is set to become legal in the state of Illinois in January 2020, making hundreds of thousands of people eligible for expungement of marijuana-related offenses from their records. The State’s Attorney for Cook County said that government agencies will partner with the organization Code for America to expedite the process of expungement. In Cook County, tens of thousands of conviction records will be automatically sealed with the help of a technology called Clear My Record. Marijuana convictions can damage a person’s chance to find a job or get a home.
Under the terms of the new marijuana law, felony convictions related to less than 30 grams of marijuana will be expunged. Prosecutors will also have more time to focus on more serious criminal activity as they will not have to deal with so many marijuana cases. People who have convictions involving between 30 and 500 grams of marijuana will have to file petitions for expungement. Prosecutors will have the opportunity to object to these latter expungements, so they’re not guaranteed.
Code For America previously helped to expunge more than 8,000 convictions for marijuana offenses in San Francisco. The Illinois program brings the effort to a second state. It promises to clear marijuana convictions at a lower cost, in bulk and quickly. Six out of 10 cases dealt with by the State’s Attorney’s Office are drug possession related. The new laws and new programs promise to change the focus of law enforcement.
People in Illinois who have previously been convicted of serious drug offenses might be eligible to have their records sealed or expunged. An attorney who practices criminal law may be able to help by examining the facts of the conviction and providing advice regarding expungement. An attorney might also draft and file any necessary legal documents or communicate with government officials to have the client’s record cleared.