More than 30 marijuana possession convictions have been erased by Connecticut Superior Court judges in just a few months. While the number may seem relatively low compared to the thousands of marijuana-related arrests in the last several years, the rate of approval continues to be very high. Judicial branch records indicate that only 39 petitions had been processed through May 2015 to erase marijuana possession convictions, with more than 80 percent (a total of 32 cases) having been approved.
Decriminalization of Minor Possession
Earlier this year, the Connecticut Supreme Court was faced with a decision regarding the definition of decriminalization as it pertains to erasing a conviction. Under Connecticut law, a person who has been convicted of an offense that is later “decriminalized” may petition the court to have the conviction erased and all records of the case physically destroyed.
While the process of erasure was clearly meant to be available to those convicted of an offense that is no longer against the law, the issue is more ambiguous regarding minor marijuana possession. The complicating factor is that minor marijuana possession is still technically illegal, but no longer considered a crime. In 2011, the Connecticut General Assembly and Governor Dannel Malloy reduced the possession of up to a half-ounce of marijuana from a misdemeanor criminal offense to a civil violation roughly equivalent to a parking ticket.
Connecticut v. Menditto
In light of the new approach to minor marijuana possession, a Connecticut man sought to have his previous possession convictions erased. A three-judge Appellate Court panel ruled against him, however, holding that in order to meet the requirement of decriminalization, an offense must be fully legalized (a standard not met by the reduction to a civil violation).
The man took his case to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which handed down its ruling in late March. The high court unanimously disagreed with the appellate panel’s decision, stating that “the legislature has determined that such violations are to handled in the same manner as civil infractions, such as parking violations” and that there are no convincing reasons to deny the erasure of previous, applicable convictions.
Legal Help for Erasing a Conviction
Petitions for erasure are expected to increase significantly as the general public becomes more aware of the new rights offered by the Supreme Court’s decision. Defense advocates herald the opportunities now afforded to thousands of individuals with a minor possession offense currently on their criminal records. Erasure can offer many a fresh start and the chance to clear their background completely.
If you have been previously convicted of marijuana possession or are currently facing charges, our team is equipped to help you. Contact an experienced Hartford criminal defense attorney today at the Woolf Law Firm, LLC. We will review your case, answer your questions, and help you understand all of your available options. Call [[phone1]] to schedule a consultation.