Fri, August 19, 2022 6:50 p.m.
Legal experts will be available to provide information and answer questions relating to the removal or reduction of eligible criminal convictions under new state law.
On Thursday, Erie County District Attorney John J. Flynn announced the first of two upcoming events for Erie County residents who want to learn how to erase or reduce marijuana-related convictions on their criminal record.
The first information clinic will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, August 25. A second clinic will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 24. Both events will take place at Elim Christian Fellowship at 70 Chalmers Ave. in the City of Buffalo.
Flynn’s team said, “A criminal record for even a low-level marijuana-related offense can negatively impact an individual’s ability to access education, housing and employment. use. The purpose of these free information sessions is to educate residents about eligibility criteria and to assist those who are legally entitled to have marijuana-related convictions removed from their criminal records. Legal experts will be available to provide residents with information on recently enacted criminal laws and answer questions about the expungement process.
Flynn said, “Now that New York State has legalized recreational cannabis, we must act on behalf of people whose lives have been unfairly affected by a marijuana-related conviction on their criminal record. In particular, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by the criminalization of cannabis, which has hindered their pursuit of certain opportunities in life. I hope to give a fresh start to our citizens living with these criminal convictions by offering legal support to expedite the expungement or reduction process.
The district attorney was joined by Kevin M. Stadelmaier, first assistant defendant – criminal division of the legal counsel program assigned to the Erie County Bar Association; Sarah Ryan, General Counsel – Criminal Defense Unit of the Bureau of Legal Aid of Buffalo Inc.; and Reverend Dr. T. Anthony Bronner of Elim Christian Fellowship.
Stadelmaier said, “After years of injustice perpetrated against poor and minority populations through the criminalization of marijuana, the New York State Legislature legalized the possession and use of marijuana by adults in 2021. This landmark legislation takes dramatic steps to significantly reduce crime, improve negative communities and repair unjust convictions, which occurred under the now repealed legislation. A major feature of the new law is the expungement of most marijuana-related convictions, providing clients affected by the old laws the opportunity to move forward without burden. We thank the Buffalo Legal Aid Office, the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, and Erie County District Attorney John Flynn for their partnership in our efforts to massively suppress these convictions.
Ryan said: “The expungement of marijuana-related convictions is a step towards redressing one of the many injustices suffered by members of disadvantaged communities in our city. Expungement gives people the opportunity to apply for jobs, education, and housing without a marijuana conviction negatively affecting the better future they hope to achieve. Giving people access to the realization of dreams results in a better and more prosperous society for all. The Buffalo Legal Aid Office thanks all participants working on this worthwhile project.
Flynn’s team explained that expungement nullifies a criminal conviction, which is the same as if the arrest had never taken place. Once expunged, the conviction will no longer show up on a criminal background check and does not need to be disclosed when applying for a job, student loan, or housing. The conviction record will be sealed and kept confidential, except when applying for a gun license or employment with a law enforcement agency.
Under the law, only certain cannabis offenses committed in New York State can be expunged or reduced from a criminal record. Any convictions in the criminal case, other than the marijuana offense, will remain on the individual’s criminal record.
Under the passage of the New York State Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA), certain offenses involving the possession or sale of cannabis will be automatically expunged from an individual’s criminal record by the office of administration of the courts of the State of New York and sealed by operation of law. Although the expungement of certain cannabis-related convictions does not require any action, the Office of Courts Management has been given two years to implement the automatic expungement process, which is not expected to be completed until March 31. 2023.
A conviction will automatically be overturned by the court if a person has been found guilty of violating the following sections of New York State criminal law:
√ Pl 221.05 second degree unlawful possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.10 unlawful possession of marijuana in the first degree
√ PL 221.15 fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.20 third degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.35 fifth degree criminal sale of marijuana
√ PL 221.40 fourth degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 222.10 restrictions on cannabis use
√ PL 222.15 personal cultivation and home possession of cannabis
√ PL 222.25 illegal possession of cannabis
√ PL 222.45 illegal sale of cannabis
The following convictions are automatically expunged only if the controlled substance involved was concentrated cannabis:
√ PL 240.36 vagrancy in the first degree, but only if the court can determine that concentrated cannabis was the only controlled substance involved.
√ PL 220.03 criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree, but only if the court can determine that concentrated cannabis was the only controlled substance involved.
√ PL 220.06 criminal possession of a controlled substance in the fifth degree, but only if the court can determine that concentrated cannabis was the only controlled substance involved.
Some convictions may be eligible for expungement, reduction of charges and/or reduction of sentence, but require a petition to be filed with the court:
√ PL 221.25 second degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.30 first degree criminal possession of marijuana
√ PL 221.45 third degree criminal sale of marijuana
√ PL 221.50 second degree criminal sale of marijuana
√ PL 221.55 First degree criminal sale of marijuana
Erie County residents who believe they have a marijuana-related conviction are encouraged to attend one of the upcoming information sessions. Anyone requesting an expungement or reduction must sign and complete an application form and a financial eligibility form to allow legal experts to obtain a copy of the applicant’s court records and criminal history.
Lawyers will review records to determine each person’s eligibility for expungement or reduced conviction. If eligible, attorneys will file a motion with the court for an expungement or reduction of the criminal charge. The motion will go before a judge and prosecutors from the Erie County District Attorney’s Office will consent to the dismissal or reduction of the sentence at a court date expected to be held this fall. The applicant will be notified if the conviction is not eligible for expungement or reduction.
The free information clinics are presented by the Erie County District Attorney’s Office, the Erie County Assigned Attorney Program, and the Buffalo Legal Aid Office, with support from the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo.