* From the other day…
A Republican state senator on Wednesday suggested that Illinois’ Democratic governor issue a mass pardon of all low-level marijuana convictions to relieve legal concerns associated with a bill that would legalize possession and sale of recreational marijuana.
Sen. Jason Barickman of Bloomington said a mass pardon would pave the way for the automatic expungement of hundreds of thousands of past marijuana-related convictions, a goal of the bill’s sponsors to correct for injustices of the “war on drugs.”
Barickman said he is “interested in coming to an agreement” that would allow him to support Senate Bill 7. But he said the expungement process would be “incredibly convoluted” in the state’s 102 counties without a mass pardon by the governor. […]
A mass pardon or individual pardons would avoid the potential of expungements being declared invalid under the Illinois Constitution because the legislature lacks the power on its own to reverse convictions, according to Robert Berlin, president of the Illinois State’s Attorney’s Association.
A couple of thoughts on this.
1) The proposal as currently written also expunges arrest records. The governor can’t do anything about those.
2) The opponents also objected to the proposal’s provision providing for future expungements. But the state already has a similar automatic expungement law on its books, and it hasn’t been challenged in court…
Except as otherwise provided in subsection (0.15) of this Section, the Department of State Police and all law enforcement agencies within the State shall automatically expunge, on or before January 1 of each year, all juvenile law enforcement records relating to events occurring before an individual’s 18th birthday…
* From Ben Ruddell, Director of Criminal Justice Policy, ACLU of Illinois…
There is no constitutional reason why the General Assembly can’t pass a law requiring the automatic expungement of criminal records. We already have such laws on the books here in Illinois.
It is our understanding that SB 7 is still a work in progress. The ACLU and other advocates and stakeholders have, at the invitation of the sponsors, submitted comments and suggested changes to these provisions and a host of others. But any suggestion that the legislature can’t constitutionally require the automatic expungement of marijuana convictions is just a red herring.
* But law enforcement interests aren’t the only ones with objections to the bill as written…
State Representative Carol Ammons said during a recent interview it will be difficult for her to get behind a proposed bill to legalize cannabis without significant changes to the legislation. The Urbana Democrat said expungement for prior marijuana offenses is chief among her concerns. A summary of the legislation outlines an automatic expungement process for people arrested and convicted of cannabis crimes.
But the summary explicitly excludes individuals who were also charged with other offenses when they were arrested for cannabis crimes. Those individuals could separately petition the courts to have their records expunged, according to the summary.
Ammons said that’s not fair. She believes everyone regardless of what other crimes they may have been charged with should still be able to receive automatic expungement for cannabis offenses.
“If I have a marijuana charge, and I may have robbed a bank and they found a little marijuana on me, and they charged me with that up-charge. Take away the marijuana charge. I’ll still deal with the bank robbery,” she said.
I’m thinking that’s a bit much.
* Wolf Signs Bill Sealing Some Criminal Records After Decade: Lower-level, nonviolent crimes in Pennsylvania will automatically be sealed from public review after 10 years under a law signed Thursday, a change designed to lessen the stigma for people seeking jobs or housing.
* Utah Becomes the Second State with Automatic Expungement