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Seattle asks to vacate marijuana possession convictions

Anyone who was convicted in Seattle of misdemeanor marijuana possession prior to 2012 may have their convictions vacated. That would be true if the mayor and city attorney have their request for that to happen granted. The final decision would be made by the courts, and convictions would be removed automatically if action is taken. The mayor acknowledged that such a conviction could create problems for those who are looking for housing, for work or to go to school.

Assuming that their convictions are vacated, they wouldn't have to acknowledge it on an application. It is likely that the decision would lead to over 500 cases being vacated, and most of those occurred between 1997 and 2009. Cases were tried in county court prior to 1997, and Seattle officials cannot unilaterally vacate those convictions.

According to data from the Drug Policy Alliance, African-Americans and Native Americans were charged by the state with possession at rates higher than white residents between 2000 and 2010. Therefore, the move to potentially vacate marijuana convictions is seen as a way to reverse prior behavior that may have been discriminatory. The request to vacate convictions in Seattle is similar to a move made by authorities in San Francisco. In that city, 3,038 convictions were tossed that dated back to 1975.

Those who are charged with drug possession may benefit from talking with an attorney. Doing so may make it possible to negotiate a plea deal or potentially win an acquittal. An attorney may also take steps to have a case thrown out prior to trial. This may allow an individual to avoid potential consequences such as jail time or a fine. Probation or community service may also be part of a sentence on a drug possession charge.

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