Massachusetts Has An Expungement Provision For Decriminalized Marijuana Offenses. Do You Take Those Types Of Cases?
Massachusetts does have an expungement provision for decriminalized marijuana offenses, and we do take these cases.
Are Decriminalized Cases Handled Differently?
An act that would no longer be a crime, such as possession of a small amount of marijuana, is eligible for expungement.
Are Marijuana Related Possession Cases Now Decriminalized?
In Massachusetts, marijuana isn’t just decriminalized, it’s now legal. The state decriminalized it about as the result of a ballot initiative in 2008. At that time, marijuana was decriminalized, but it was still illegal. You couldn’t be arrested for having a small amount of marijuana on you, but you could be written a $100 ticket. Then, a few years ago, the state made it completely legal. You can now legally possess marijuana. You can even own plants and do some other whacky stuff, including owning a commercial marijuana dispensary if you have a license for it. However, if you are not a US citizen, or if you want to work in a federally regulated occupation such as banking, do business with the federal government, or get a security clearance, you should still avoid marijuana, because it is still a federal crime and can carry consequences when dealing with the federal government.
Are There Any Legislative Changes That Could Potentially Affect Marijuana Charges Or Sales?
There are some changes that could potentially affect marijuana charges and sales. A while ago, you could only walk around with up to an ounce or 15.9 grams of marijuana on your person. When it comes to selling marijuana, that has changed. The sale of marijuana is illegal unless you own a licensed dispensary, but you can gift it to someone. The authorities want to stop the black market and be able to tax the sale of marijuana. However, if you want to give a quarter of an ounce of marijuana to a friend as a gift, that’s acceptable. Again, you cannot make any money off of that transaction. Any Massachusetts conviction for something that is no longer a crime can be expunged. This is all in reference to the state level. It is still a federal crime and can carry consequences when dealing with the federal government.
What Is The Difference Between A Sealing And An Expungement?
The difference between a sealing and an expungement is that a sealing is the most prevalent tool in Massachusetts. It is kind of a locking up of your record. For instance, when you petition to seal your record, you’re telling the court that your record is your business and no one else should have access to it. After jumping through some specific hoops, and depending on timelines and the type of offense, the court could seal your record. Once your record is sealed, it is no longer a public record. All court records are normally public records. At any point in time, anyone can walk down to the local courthouse and rummage through all of the clerk’s files and make copies if they want to. That’s the system we have.
By sealing it, the clerk removes the file from the public forum. If anyone walks into the clerk’s office and says, “Hey, I want to see any files you have on John Smith,” if they’ve been sealed, the clerk will say, “Sorry, those are sealed. You can’t see them.” Sealing a record also helps with most background checks you might go through for employment or housing. A sealed case will not come up on a typical background check. Law enforcement are the only ones who can actually see the record. However, even if a prosecutor wanted to see your record, they would have to request permission from the judge to unseal it. That way, they could look at it before doing anything with it. Therefore, sealing a record locks it up. No one else can see it. It’s no one else’s business, and the court is bouncing between a citizen’s rights to privacy and the public’s right to know your history.
Expungement on the other hand is a complete destruction of your record. It is wiping it clean. It is eliminating it as if it never happened. Expungement is not only just your court record, it is also a notice that tells the police department to destroy all records they have of your arrest. The police report and the fingerprints all get destroyed. It completely wipes your record clean, which is also why expungement is not used as widely. There is a public interest element in being able to know someone’s history and wiping it away removes that facet.
For more information on Expungement/Sealing Record In Massachusetts, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (617) 718-5550 today.