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Sunday, December 5, 2021

Expungement days for marijuana offenses set in Essex County

GUILDHALL — Essex County State’s Attorney Vince Illuzzi, Vermont Legal Aid, and the Caledonia-Essex County Bar Association are inviting community members who have been charged or convicted of misdemeanor marijuana offenses, and other qualifying offenses, to two expungement days.

The first will take place Saturday, August 11, and another on Saturday, August 18, from 10 a.m. to 3 p. m. at the Essex County Court House, in Guildhall

Effective July 1, Vermont law changed to allow for personal possession of small amounts of marijuana by persons aged 21 and over.

In recognition of this statutory change and shifting attitudes toward marijuana, as well as the desire to assist in clearing all qualifying offenses from citizens’ records, Illuzzi has agreed to stipulate to the expungement of qualifying convictions that occurred in Essex County.

Qualifying offenses are defined by Vermont law at Chapter 230 of Title 13.

It includes most misdemeanors and some non-violent felonies.

During each of the two scheduled expungement days, volunteers will provide necessary legal advice and assistance to petitioners to prepare their expungement petitions.

Illuzzi says he will review and sign off on requests for expungement if the conviction qualifies under the law.

“The criminal justice system often forces individuals to help themselves, and address issues such as substance abuse,” said Illuzzi. “If the system has worked and individuals have stayed out of trouble for five or ten years, depending on the history, then those individuals should be encouraged to take advantage of Vermont law that allows those convictions to be erased from their records.”

Illuzzi says that every petition will be carefully reviewed and given careful consideration.

“I want to ensure that those convicted in Essex County are given the same opportunities that have been and are being made available to those convicted of qualifying offenses in other counties.”

Individuals seeking to participate in the Essex County expungement days should bring valid, government-issued photo identification, though participants who cannot obtain an identification by this time will not necessarily be prevented from participating.

Additionally, those seeking to participate should bring records or information about their convictions, if possible.

However, volunteers will have the ability to look up the offense, based on name and date of birth.

The cost of petitioning for expungement is $90 per docket—checks or money orders can be made out to the Vermont Superior Court.

Some individuals may qualify for a fee waiver.

Those who have lower incomes can petition to have the filing fee waived.

If an individual cannot attend either day and would like advice or assistance about clearing their qualifying offenses, they can contact attorneys at Vermont Legal Aid by calling 1-800-889-2047, or by filling out an online intake at https://vtlawhelp.org/vlh-intake.

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