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Missouri courts begin clearing nonviolent marijuana charges

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

Missouri courts began the process of clearing criminal records of certain marijuana charges Thursday.

Missouri is the first state to pass automatic expungement by a popular vote. However, some prosecutors across the state are saying automatic isn't as simple as it sounds.

Missouri voters  approved Amendment 3 during the Nov. 8 midterm election with more than 53% of votes in favor. The legislation went into action Thursday and Missouri residents 21 years old and older can now legally possess up to 3 ounces of marijuana.

Courts have six months from Dec. 8 to expunge misdemeanor marijuana charges and one year to expunge felony marijuana charges.

Steve Sokoloff, general counsel for Missouri Office of Prosecution Services, said the automatic expungement process written into Amendment 3 creates a lot of work for Missouri courts.

"Quite frankly, I'm not sure how they're actually going to be able to comply with the timelines I think are unreasonably short given the amount of information needs to be reviewed and examined, because this is not just a matter of pressing a key on a computer," Sokoloff said.

This only applies to marijuana charges. Sokoloff said people have already begun contacting some prosecutors about expunging other charges, but marijuana possession and selling are the only things eligible to be expunged under Amendment 3.

Anyone who has been convicted of possession of more than 3 pounds must petition the courts. People with felony possession charges more than 3 pounds who are in prison, on probation or on parole must finish their punishment before applying for expungement.

Charges related to violence, driving while impaired or selling to a minor will not be eligible for expungement.

John Payne, of Legal Missouri 2022, said he understands the burden it may place on courts, but the writers behind Amendment 3 wanted expungement done quickly.

"We wanted to make sure that those things happened in a timely fashion and not hold up the people that are that need those expungements to lead better, more fulfilling lives by taking that burden off their records," Payne said.

If you're waiting on automatic expungement, nothing needs to be filed on your part, but you can contact your county prosecutor's office or check the state court website.

Article Topic Follows: Missouri
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Hannah Falcon

Hannah joined the ABC 17 News Team from Houston, Texas, in June 2021. She graduated from Texas A&M University. She was editor of her school newspaper and interned with KPRC in Houston. Hannah also spent a semester in Washington, D.C., and loves political reporting.

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