September 19, 2023
Last month, the city of Denver hosted its first free legal clinic designed to help Coloradans with old drug convictions to have their records expunged according to new legislation.
In 2017 (three years after Amendment 64 was passed, and one year after it went into effect), additional legislation was passed in an effort to offer some reparative justice to those previously convicted of low-level drug crimes that would be considered legal under current law.
If you currently have an old marijuana conviction on your record, you may be excited to learn the clinic is a part of the Turn Over a New Leaf initiative, whose goal is to help those folks continuing to experience hardship due to their record still reflecting activity that is no longer deemed criminal.
Coloradans Facing Undue Hardship
In one recent expungement petition of a years-old possession conviction that did make its way in front of a Denver judge, the court found that “unwarranted, adverse consequences to the defendant outweigh the public interest in retaining the records” and ordered the offender’s records sealed.
This, we believe, is the heart of the matter. These Colorado criminal records are unfairly holding back those who would otherwise be considered law-abiding members of the community.
People continue to have difficulty getting housing and jobs, and in some cases are losing them. The program is designed to ensure those folks don’t continue to feel the consequences of actions they committed – and paid for – years ago, and that are now considered legal.
The Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez Steps Up
California has taken arguably the most progressive measures by enacting legislation that automatically vacates low-level offenses. They even digitize the expungement process to expedite the corrections and remove the burden of filing a petition from their citizens.
Colorado isn’t quite there, but our state continues to work towards improving its processes – just at a much slower pace. City data for Denver, for instance, says at least 10,000 convictions on record qualify for the program.
Sadly, only a negligible percentage have been expunged to date. In contrast, the San Francisco DA’s office has already processed 9,362 records since January of this year.
In the meantime, legal clinics and individual expungement cases are what’s helping our community members get there faster, and The Law Office of Jacob E. Martinez is working hard to shed light on this issue. Our very own Brett Eliasen was recently quoted in a Courthouse News Source story about the issues people are facing regarding getting these crimes off their record.
“I think there’s an anxiety any time they’re sitting down for a job application or interview,” he said. “You don’t know when you’re going to be blindsided in an interview.” These types of cases and clinics help regular people to learn more about their rights and the power they have to change their record, and we believe they’re incredibly important.
We’re not the only ones. Legal professionals across the industry, including city attorneys, DA office legal experts, immigration attorneys, and more are coming together at these clinics to assist people interested in checking their eligibility status to have their record expunged. When someone qualifies for the program, the lawyer reviews their case at no charge.
Colorado Communities Reap the Benefit of Drug Crime Expungement
It seems pulling back the curtain on the process and removing the cost restraints are exactly the kind of assistance Colorado citizens have been hoping for. “I think it’s a really great service because the process to attempt this on your own… I’ve attempted this for years. I’ve come to the information and help offices [before]…but I got lost in the paperwork…having this all done in one shot is wonderful.”
For the inaugural event, the Marijuana Industry Group even agreed to pick up the tab for the those filing a motion with the court through the clinic.
How Coloradans Can Participate in the Program
In order to be eligible for this expungement program, there are four primary requirements:
- The crime must have been committed in Denver;
- It cannot be more than a low-level drug crime;
- There must not have been guns involved in the crime; and
- No other crimes should be associated with the conviction.
If you believe you qualify to have your record expunged, but missed the last clinic, you can find all forms and instructions associated with the sealing of your arrest and criminal records online.
While we hope to see the same great strides California is making in record corrections here in our state, we are pleased to see the City of Denver working hard to help its community.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been designated a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers and has been awarded both the Avvo Client’s Choice Award and Avvo Top Attorney designation, evidencing his reputation for his exemplary criminal and DUI defense work and high moral standards.