The City of Denver has announced a new program allowing thousands of people convicted of low-level marijuana crimes before legalization to wipe those offenses off their records entirely.
It is called the “Turn Over a New Leaf” program, and it makes an estimated 10,000 convictions eligible for expungement, according to Denver officials. Unveiled on January 9, the program is the result of Denver’s recognition that old convictions for activity that is now legal should not hinder people from finding housing or getting jobs.
A New, Simple Process
State law requires people to use the court system to eliminate marijuana convictions, an approach known to be lengthy and expensive.
Denver’s new system is much more convenient and cost-effective. A website and online application make it easy to apply for expungement. People can also apply at one of the clinics the city will hold over the next few months (we’ll list the clinics at the end of this post). There is no need to go to court.
Once an application is submitted, it will be reviewed by the office of the Denver City Attorney or Denver District Attorney. If the conviction is considered eligible for erasure, then the city representative will seek court approval. A state judge will make the final ruling on each request. Denver officials say decisions should take just a few weeks.
There will be no costs for most applicants, officials say. However, they added that in some applicants may incur a $65 court filing fee and a $28 Colorado Bureau of Investigation fee. This itself is a great benefit compared to the expense of the typical Colorado expungement process, which can cost thousands.
This Is a Denver-Specific Program, For Now
Remember, this new program applies only to marijuana convictions that happened in the City of Denver before recreational marijuana use became legal. Convictions that occurred in other parts of Colorado are not eligible.
Advocacy groups are hoping that the Denver program is the start of a new wave of legislation that one day might help everyone in Colorado.
Cities including Seattle and San Francisco began last year rolling out efforts to eliminate low-level marijuana convictions as well, noting that people should not be forever penalized for actions that are now legal.
Things are also taking place at the state level. Washington state’s governor plans to pardon thousands of people who were convicted of marijuana possession. The governor of Michigan is reported to be considering a similar step. Meanwhile, in California, the Department of Justice is now required to provide local prosecutors with lists of people whose marijuana convictions should be eligible for reduction or expungement.
“Turn Over a New Leaf” and similar efforts in other cities are designed to help right the wrongs caused by strict enforcement of marijuana laws, which often tended to impact minorities and low-income individuals.
“This is about equity for our communities of color and individuals who were disproportionately impacted by low-level marijuana convictions that are no longer crimes in Colorado,” said Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “Overturning these convictions is part of Denver’s multi-pronged approach to correct the social injustices caused by the war on drugs.”
It has long been known that people with criminal convictions are hampered by their records for years. A conviction creates barriers to getting a job, getting an apartment or house, and getting into colleges and universities. Rudy Gonzales, executive director of Servicios de la Raza, a Latino/Latina advocacy group, says a past conviction is “a jacket that you wear the rest of your life.”
People who take advantage of Denver’s new program will see those barriers removed and they will be able to move forward in life.
Our Law Firm Can Help
Based in Boulder, The Moorhead Law Group spends significant time helping clients in Denver. If you have any questions about the “Turn Over a New Leaf” program, we would be happy to answer them for you. We offer a free initial consultation, so spending a few minutes with us won’t cost you anything.
If you have other criminal history that you would like to discuss, we are available for that as well. Our attorneys will give you an honest assessment of your situation. Give us a call at (303) 447-1400 or send us an email.
Dates and Times of the “Turn Over a New Leaf” Clinics
The city is hosting several clinics open to anyone who would like their marijuana conviction eliminated. The dates, times, and locations are as follows.
Saturday, February 9
9:00 am-1:00 pm
Denver Conflict Center
4140 Tejon St.
Denver, CO 80211
Sunday, February 24
1:00 pm-5:00 pm
Denver Park Hill Seventh-day Adventist Church
3385 Albion St.
Denver, CO 80207
Wednesday, March 6
5:00 pm-8:00 pm
Servicios de La Raza
3131 W 14th Ave
Denver, CO 80204
Thursday, March 21
9:00 am-1:00 pm
2901 Walnut St.
Denver, CO 80205