Legalizing marijuana or cannabis both medically and recreationally has been a movement across the country. But right now, federal law still prohibits the use and possession of recreational marijuana. As a result, some state legislators have hesitated to legalize marijuana. Now, the U.S. Congress is moving towards ending the federal prohibitions on cannabis. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer indicated that the legislation would include provisions for expunging marijuana convictions. What could this mean for the rest of the country? And what will it mean for Pennsylvania residents with prior marijuana convictions?
Expungement Law in Pennsylvania
Expungement is a court determination that orders Pennsylvania agencies and courts to clear administrative and court records related to your arrest and conviction. Unfortunately, as the law currently stands in Pennsylvania, most misdemeanors and felonies can't be expunged. There are some situations where you may be able to expunge a marijuana conviction under current law.
- Probation Without a Conviction
If you were part of a diversionary program where you completed probation without a conviction, you might be eligible to have your record expunged. Section 17 and the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) are diversionary programs that allow you to complete probation without a conviction. If you completed a diversionary program, you might be eligible to have a court expunge your record. Section 17 usually applies to marijuana or paraphernalia possession, and 90% of ARD cases involve driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Minor Drug Charges
In Pennsylvania, you may be able to seal (not expunge) low-level drug charges if you meet the requirements:
- Your drug charges must be misdemeanors of the second or third-degree.
- You must be free of arrests and convictions for ten years.
- You can't have any felony convictions, first-degree misdemeanor convictions, or second-degree simple assault charges.
- You must have fewer than four misdemeanor convictions.
- You must pay all fines and costs associated with your convictions.
Minor offenses like possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, or distributing 30 grams of marijuana or less for no remuneration are typically eligible for record sealing under Pennsylvania's Limited Access laws.
- Juvenile Records
In some cases, you may be eligible to have records of drug convictions from juvenile court expunged, especially if the juvenile case came to an end more than five years prior and the person is over 18 years of age.
Could Marijuana Crimes be Expunged?
We don't yet know what will happen with federal legislation regarding marijuana pardons, but hopefully progress will happen in Pennsylvania as well. While recreational marijuana use is still illegal in Pennsylvania, there is hope that legalization on the federal level can lead more states to follow Congress's lead.
This month, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf indicated that legalizing marijuana is a priority for his administration as he begins budget negotiations. Indicating that legalization has bipartisan support, Governor Wolf said it could help eliminate harm in our state caused by the criminalization of marijuana. Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman also stated that the administration is considering the constitutionality of “wholesale pardons for certain marijuana convictions and charges.”
Hire an Experienced Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Attorney
If you need options after a Pennsylvania marijuana arrest, attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can help you to avoid a conviction, and as needed, explore the options for clearing your record. Call 888.535.3686 today to schedule a consultation. Attorney Joseph D. Lento fights hard for his clients. He can help you too.