District Attorney’s Office Uses Algorithm To Quickly Clear Cannabis Convictions

When Prop 64 passed in California in 2016, it not only legalized cannabis, it also provided a way for people to have past marijuana convictions erased, though navigating the allegedly difficult expungement process is something that only a few thousand are said to have attempted since the law went into effect.

More 200,000 cases are estimated to remain in the state, but in the Bay Area, local government is using technology to help carry people through the expungement process at lightning speed.

The San Francisco District Attorney’s Office announced in early 2018 that they would be applying Prop 64 retroactively and expunging or reducing decades worth of cannabis misdemeanors and felonies. But after going through documents manually and finding around 1,000 eligible cases, the office decided to partner with the nonprofit Code for America (CFA) organization to let computers handle the task instead.

CFA coders wrote an algorithm that was able to read through all of San Francisco’s digitized criminal records dating back to 1975 within just a few minutes and identify around 8,000 that were eligible for expungement.

The software also completed the necessary forms and created motions in PDF format which the District Attorney can file in court.

According to the Los Angeles Times, CFA plans to expand the pilot program to other counties in California and clear 250,000 cannabis convictions in 2019