Fresno County DA not following other prosecutors in proactive cannabis case dismissals

Wednesday, February 21, 2018
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fifteen months after California voters made recreational marijuana legal, thousands of people in Fresno County are still carrying convictions for activities no longer considered crimes.

Prop 64 changed everything when it comes to marijuana laws. Not only did it legalize recreational marijuana, allowing people to have up to an ounce, it also applied retroactively to just about everyone ever convicted of a marijuana crime.

Defense attorneys estimate 10,000 people in Fresno County alone are eligible to have misdemeanors dismissed or felonies reduced to misdemeanors -- which could drastically change their lives.

"It's the best thing you can do to clear your record in terms of employment, education, etc.," said legal analyst Tony Capozzi.

Capozzi says the new law didn't make it easy to get rid of their criminal records.

"(You have to) go out and try to find a lawyer, hire them," he said. "Most people can't afford it. I don't think the public defender's office can handle the volume of cases coming in at this point."

The process starts by getting a petition, filling it out, and submitting it to the courts. Critics say it can be costly and may require legal help.


Over the last few months, district attorneys in San Francisco, Alameda County, and San Diego County -- among others, have announced plans to bypass the petition process and do it on their own.

Leaders at the Fresno County district attorney's office tell me they have no plans to do proactive dismissals.

Form people can submit to have the public defender represent them in a dismissal or reduction

"There's no requirement that the DA's do that," Capozzi said. "It just depends on the area you're in. We in Fresno happen to be in a more conservative area."

Right now, attorneys say the cases are trickling in, leaving thousands of people with criminal records they could erase.

Drug Policy Alliance for a chart of which cases can be reduced or dismissed
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