BISBEE — At least 15 people have filed petitions with the Cochise County Attorney’s Office in the hopes of having an arrest or conviction for possession of marijuana stricken from their record.
Starting last week, anyone with a conviction or an arrest for personal possession of marijuana up to 2.5 ounces — of which up to 12.5 grams can be concentrates — became eligible to have the matter expunged in Cochise County and the rest of Arizona.
There is no time limit to file a petition and no date by which a case has to qualify. Once a petition is filed the case goes before a judge. From there, the prosecuting jurisdiction has 30 days to appeal. The judge then decides whether to grant an expungement.
Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre said the petitions his office has begun processing are a combination of felony and misdemeanor matters.
The petitions received thus far are probably a miniscule fraction of the number of arrests/convictions for small amounts of marijuana that have taken place in Cochise since the 1950s when weed became illegal, county officials said. But there is no way to quantify how many people are eligible to apply for an expungement in the area because cases could date back to before electronic records were kept. McIntyre said electronic record keeping started in the county in 2001.
“Anticipating how many people we’ll get (petitioning for the expungement) is impossible,” McIntyre said.
According to Cochise County legal advocate Xochitl Orozco, there were about 70 misdemeanor cases of possession of marijuana assigned to that office in 2020.
Orozco said her office does not represent defendants in expungements and “can only disseminate this expungement opportunity.”
“We are not assigned as attorneys for these cases and do not argue for expungement,” Orozco said in an email through a Cochise County spokeswoman.
Orozco also said: “Persons who qualify to have their records expunged should do so. Misdemeanor and felony convictions carry many collateral consequences and expunging this type of offense from a person’s record is important.”
Like McIntyre, Orozco said it would be difficult to estimate how many people could qualify for expungement in the county.
“It would be hard to give one number as cases could be over a very long period of time and each attorneys’ offices have their own amounts, so do private council/attorneys, etc.,” Orozco said.
Pima County Attorney Laura Conover and her staff have been laboring to find individuals there who could be eligible for the expungement process. According to an article in the Arizona Daily Star, Conover’s staff has identified about 2,300 individuals in Pima County who could have their marijuana convictions/arrests wiped from their backgrounds. According to the story, 50 had applied for the expungement on Monday, the first day of the process across the state.
McIntyre said he does not have the resources to embark on such an effort, but said his office will act on the petitions as efficiently as possible.
“We’ve put into our case management system essentially a stock response for these filings, most of them we anticipate will be pretty uncomplicated,” McIntyre said. “The person alleges or avows that they actually meet the requirements and we will do our best to confirm their avowal.”
He said there have been a couple of instances in which individuals have attempted to get a possession for sale of marijuana case erased, but the law does not allow for that.
“The statute only applies to certain offenses and we do have to hold to those offenses,” McIntyre said. “Charges for possession for sale of marijuana can’t be expunged.”
Cochise County spokeswoman Camila Rochin said anyone who believes they are eligible for an expungement may submit a petition to the county court by filing the Prop 207 Marijuana Conviction Expungement Request Form, found on the Cochise County Court Services website.
She said citizens must file with the court in the county where they were arrested, charged, convicted and/or acquitted. If a person has more than one eligible offense under more than one case number, they must file a separate petition form for each case number. Those who have a conviction from another county in Arizona must visit the Az Courts website at https://www.azcourts.gov/prop207 for information on how to file a petition.
McIntyre advised that anyone filing a petition for expungement “should make sure they acquire as much information as they can and file as complete a petition as possible.”
“It is their burden to file a complete application so that we know what the case is and that they are swearing in a court document that they meet the qualifications,” he said. “We are going to be as reasonable in our response as possible.”