It’s looking to be an extra merry Christmas for Californians who’ve been convicted of felony marijuana charges. The District Attorney’s Office in San Diego has already begun the process of repealing sentences, meaning some felons are going to find themselves with only a misdemeanor on their record and some current marijuana convicts are receiving even better news.
Deputy District Attorney Rachel Solov told the San Diego Union Tribune that her office, in conjunction with the local Public Defender’s Office and Superior Court, have so far reviewed 65 cases of people serving time for cannabis crimes that would now be considered minor infractions. “There were some that were serving a 16-month sentence, some a few years, some up to 18 years,” Solov said. “In very few cases did it actually result in their release from state prison.”
“Very few” isn’t even all that few. So far, roughly 20 people have received an early release from prison or jail in the wake of Proposition 64.
And the effect of these efforts on those who’ve already served their time for pot crimes may be no less life-changing. “It really helps,” Jane Gilbert, a Public Defender’s Office supervising attorney, told the Tribune. “[A felony conviction] really impacts people’s ability to obtain employment, licensing, security clearances, even student loans.”
The most mind-blowing element of this story is that this drug war recovery was not spearheaded by victims or a non-profit group like the ACLU. It came from San Diego’s justice system itself. They’re doing it for free as a service to victims of previous harsh drug laws, with as little red tape as possible for those who can benefit from new regulations.
According to Gilbert, the Public Defender’s Office will file petitions for anyone eligible, whether they served as their representation during their initial charge or not. The office reviews the cases, checks if there are any specifics which would disqualify the petition, and then most cases are settled without even requiring a court appearance by the defendant. Their plan is to file 50 such petitions a week and so far they have been keeping on track.
If other counties in California follow San Diego’s lead then it’s looking to be a mighty Happy New Year.
Photo via Flickr user Dave Nakayama