Beginning this week, individuals with low-level marijuana convictions will have a chance to start with a clean slate thanks to a provision signed into New York state law.
"It does mean that some people that previously couldn’t qualify for expungement and sealment may now qualify, so they should definitely take a second look," said Albany County District Attorney David Soares.
Under the new law, those having records with possession of fewer than two ounces of marijuana would be automatically expunged. Soares says it’s a matter of educating the public on who is eligible.
"If one of those misdemeanors happens to be the B misdemeanor level marijuana, or the violation level of marijuana, they can now qualify," said Soares.
According to the Department of Justice Criminal File, more than 24,000 individuals will automatically end up with no New York criminal record, and more than 200,000 will be eligible for sealment or expungement statewide. Legislators say in most cases, this greatly affects communities of color.
"It will be automatic, so that these hundreds of thousands that would be impacted would not have to seek a lawyer, because that’s expensive," said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy.
Agencies are gearing up to provide more access to legal aid for more complicated cases.
"We have partnered with the bar association to provide a number of pro bono attorneys," the DA said.
"If it’s more than that, such as being tied to a knife incident or some other type of crime, then that would take more of a review," the assemblywoman added.
The law will take effect August 28.