A bill filed Tuesday in the Washington State House would vacate misdemeanor marijuana convictions for those who qualify, a direct response to voters legalizing possession last fall.
If passed, HB 1661 would work one of two ways: (1) Someone who pleaded guilty to a pot possession charge could apply to the court for a vacation of that criminal record, and, if eligible, that plea will be changed to not guilty and the case will be dismissed. (2) Someone who pleaded not guilty—but was convicted—can apply for the vacation and the court shall dismiss "the information, indictment, complaint, or citation against the applicant," nullifying the judgment and sentence. The bill's prime sponsor, Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-West Seattle), added by email that if you meet the eligibility requirements, the judge is required to send you on your way to the sandy beaches of innocence.
What are those eligibility requirements? You must have completed the terms of your sentence, for starters. Among other disqualifiers, the court can't vacate a conviction if you have a DUI on your record, were found guilty of another drug charge within ten years of this charge, or have had a domestic violence conviction.
The bill has 21 cosponsors, two Republicans and the rest Democrats. What's the benefit if it passes? The court would be required to notify law enforcement and the FBI of the change in your record. The vacation of your record would be accessible only by law enforcement, and that past conviction couldn't be used to deny you housing, a job, or student loans.