PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - It's been almost two months since eligible Arizonans could apply to get their marijuana-related criminal offenses wiped clean from their record. Thousands have already gone through the process, but there are still even more who haven't started yet. Some of these cases are decades old, and have now been wiped clean.
Glendale resident Carlos Diaz was charged with a misdemeanor for marijuana possession ten years ago. "They find a marijuana roach underneath my passenger seat, and that was it," Diaz said.
He's one of the lucky ones, not losing his job, and mostly living life like he did before the misdemeanor. But when it came time for potential new career opportunities, the same roadblock kept happening. "I got the job not only once, but twice," Diaz said. "But because of their HR policy, with any kind of possession charge you couldn't get the job."
So when Prop 207 passed, and expungements became possible back in July, Carlos was one of the first in line. "Now I'm clean, you know what I mean?" Diaz said. "And that just feels good to know that there's nothing on my record."
Starting Monday, anyone convicted of certain marijuana-related crimes can now starting petitioning to get it scrubbed from their record.
But for every Carlos, there are countless others who still have a criminal record for something that's now legal in our state. According to Arizona NORML, a marijuana advocacy group, there are between a quarter million and half a million people eligible for expungement.
Arizona NORML political director Julie Gunnigle says part of the issue is that it's the individual's responsibility to apply for expungement, instead of state prosecutors automatically approving those who are eligible. "Folks think that this has already been done for them," Gunnigle said. "And they are getting the uncomfortable surprise when they go to get their next fingerprint card or they have their employer do a background check. They're finding that it's still there."
Gunnigle says she's also seen some confusion over what exactly an expungement is. "That term is strange, and it's legalese," Gunnigle said. "And making it clear to people that this is a true clearing of their record, that only themselves and their attorney will ever see that this happened ever again, that's really what we need to be conveying."
As for the expungement process itself, it's free and can be finished in less than a month. "On the document that I did get in the mail, it said honorable judge whoever it was had granted it," Diaz said. "That's the document, I hold those with a kung-fu grip for sure, and I keep those locked in a good place."