Q: First things first, what is an expungement?
An expungement is a court order that seals records of conviction and arrest. In Oregon, this process is called Setting Aside a Conviction and/or Record of Arrest. The process involves applying for the court order by filing documents, submitting fingerprints for a background check, and paying fees. Once complete, all records are sealed, and the arrest and conviction are deemed not to have occurred in the eyes of the law. In most situations when asked, a person with a sealed record can legally respond as if the arrest and conviction never happened.
Q: People with outdated convictions may have difficulty securing housing and employment. What other obstacles could arise when someone has a conviction such as this on their record?
As a society, we continue to punish people for past convictions, long after their debt is paid. The social stigma associated with having a criminal record is a continued form of punishment, which is why expungements are vital for true forgiveness. Punishment does not simply end when a person completes their sentence. People with convictions on their records face many challenges in society; they are denied housing and employment opportunities, some are prevented from obtaining licenses, denied travel, and even rejected for volunteer work. Worst of all, constitutional rights are withheld.
Q: Now that recreational marijuana is legal in the state of Oregon, how easy is the process to expunge an outdated marijuana conviction?
Since recreational cannabis is both legal and socially accepted in Oregon, maintaining old cannabis related convictions on records seems out of touch. Why continue to punish a past behavior that is now legally accepted, regulated, and taxed? That is why people with cannabis related convictions that occurred prior to July 2015, may qualify for a special expungement process under a new Oregon statute ORS 475B.401. This swifter process involves applying for a court order by filing documents, but does not require payment of court fees, fingerprints, or a background check. If you have a past cannabis related conviction, contact an expungement attorney and ask about ORS 475B.401.
Q: How can one determine their eligibility for expungement for a past marijuana offense?
If we, as a society, are to truly forgive our fellow citizens, we must allow for the removal of the social stigma that comes with a past conviction. Oregon is progressive for allowing some people with past mistakes a chance to clear their records and achieve a clean slate. However, determining one's eligibility can be difficult. Expungements are allowed under Oregon statute ORS 137.225, which is a complicated law. I recommend people consult with an expungement attorney to determine if they qualify. Even if a person does not qualify for a normal expungement, an expungement attorney may have alternative relief options available, such as reducing a felony to a misdemeanor.
Eric specializes in Business Law and Real Estate Law at Barbur Law, LLC
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