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If New York legalizes marijuana, will prior convictions disappear?

As more states throughout the country pass legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, it seems like a foregone conclusion to many people that New York will likely pass similar legislation in the next few years, if not sooner.

On its face, for a number of reasons, this is a strong win for criminal defense advocates. Most prominently, the sheer number of arrests generated from possession of the drug is staggering, resulting in many defendants receiving harsh penalties. Others accept unfair plea bargains that may affect their rights and privileges for many years to come.

If you or someone you know faces possession charges for marijuana -- or any drug -- it is absolutely essential that you build a strong legal defense against these charges as soon as possible. The prosecution assigned to your case is paid to seek a conviction with strong penalties, and they are often very effective at their jobs. The guidance of an experienced defense attorney who understands the nuances of New York drug laws and the local justice system can help assess your charges and identify strategies you can use to protect yourself and your freedom.

Complicated aftermath for legalization

Unfortunately, legalizing marijuana is unlikely to mean that those who already received convictions related to their use or possession of the drug will suddenly see their criminal records suddenly revised to reflect the change.

Depending on the nature of the legislation that gets passed, this issue may or may not get addressed as part of the measure. In part, this is because drug charges are often not the only issues involved with a conviction.

The reality of the situation is that many individuals with existing convictions will likely need to take very specific actions to clear their records. Depending on the circumstances, they could face varying degrees of difficulty doing so. Those who received convictions for minor possession or similar low-level violations may succeed in expunging the conviction entirely, while those with felony convictions may have to start by seeking to downgrade the conviction to a misdemeanor.

These issues are also state-specific, so as each state chooses its individual stance on the matter, it must also outline the process by which convicted offenders may remedy their convictions. When Colorado legalized marijuana for recreational use in 2012, those with existing convictions did not receive automatic remedies, for instance.

Dealing with existing convictions remains an important component of legalization efforts, but is often the undercard issue, receiving far less attention in the media, even among advocate sources.

Protect your future as soon as you can

Whether you currently face possession charges or are looking for strategies to deal with an existing conviction in light of changing laws, you may benefit from greatly from personalized legal guidance. Don't overlook any tools you have available as you fight to protect your rights and privileges from harsh legal penalties.

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