In November 2022, Missouri passed Amendment 3 to expunge records involving certain marijuana misdemeanors and felonies. Since then, officials have claimed the state has made progress with expunging all charges involving three pounds or less of marijuana. However, many suspect they will fall short of sealing many records by the promised date.
Missouri voters passed Amendment 3, which legalized marijuana and pushed for automatic marijuana-related expungements. As a result, anyone who completed their sentences for past offenses can skip petitioning the court. Instead of going in for a hearing to expunge their records, the system will automatically seal the information for them.
Under Missouri’s new expungement regulations, the courts must expunge marijuana-related misdemeanors by June 8, 2023. In addition, qualifying felonies have until December 8, 2023. However, the responsibility for meeting these deadlines falls to the individual Circuit Clerks for each county.
County employees must manually sort through each case file and identify qualifying charges to expunge qualifying offenses. After identifying eligible accounts, they must remove every record involving those charges. According to county representatives, locating and removing the information often take hours for a single case. Thankfully, identifying newer cases has proven easier because they have digital records.
According to the state, it has expunged over 31,000 charges. However, this does not mean 31,000 individuals have sealed records. Many cases will show that a person has multiple charges filed in one case, significantly reducing the number of people who have actually benefited from this progress.
As a result, processing these expungements has proven a significantly difficult task for the Circuit Clerks and their teams across the state. In addition, the looming deadlines and push to rapidly process the records have only complicated matters. Due to these struggles, the state court authorities asked legislators for assistance early in 2023. According to the request, they sought approval for an additional $2.5 million in the supplemental budget for circuit clerks to provide overtime pay.
Thought it appears the Circuit Clerks and their teams may not process all the expungements by the deadlines, they must still seal these records. Until they succeed, businesses must carefully review criminal background reports to ensure they do not consider sealed information. The best way to ensure they comply with Amendment 3’s requirements is to partner with a trustworthy background screening company.
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