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Expunging marijuana arrest/conviction in D.C.

Jamison KoehlerCriminal Procedure, Drug Offenses

Offenses that have been decriminalized (for example, the possession of a small amount of marijuana) present one of the most promising options for sealing or expunging a criminal record in Washington, D.C.   There is no waiting period.  It is an easy of proof.  And the effect of the sealing/expungement is to restore the person to the position he or she occupied before the arrest.

The rationale behind this section of the Criminal Record Sealing Act is pretty obvious:  You do not want to punish people for being arrested or convicted for behavior the D.C. Council has determined should not be criminal.  In March 2015, therefore, the D.C. Council enacted the Recording Sealing for Decriminalized and Legalized Offenses Amendment Act of 2014.  This was one month after the Council legalized the possession of a small amount of marijuana (less than 2 ounces). 

Unlike many other provisions of the Criminal Record Sealing Act, there is no waiting period:  You can file the motion at any time.  This is, for example, unlike filing a motion under D.C. Code § 16-803 in which the petitioner must wait two, three or four years depending on the offense and the disposition of the case before becoming eligible.  

The burden is on the movant to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that it is in the interest of justice to grant relief.  This is an easier standard to meet than in some other types of criminal records.  In the case of motions to seal under a conviction for an eligible misdemeanor or felony, for example, the burden is on the petitioner to “establish by clear and convincing evidence that it is in the interests of justice to grant relief.”

Finally, the effect of a successful motion in this type of case is to put the person back into the position he or she was in before the arrest.  In other words, it is as if – legally speaking – the arrest or conviction never happened.  This is unlike a successful motion under D.C. Code § 16-803 in which only public records are sealed and there are still circumstances in which the record must be disclosed. 

People often wait until they are about to apply for a new job before contacting Koehler Law for assistance.  Because the record sealing normally takes 4 to 6 months after the filing of the motion, it is a good idea to get a jump start on the process.  In other words, do not wait.  Contact us today at or 202-549-2374.