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Fresno Court is Among State’s Slowest in Implementing Pot Conviction Law

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Fresno County Superior Court fairs poorly when it comes to fulfilling a legal requirement to expunge or reduce marijuana convictions, compared to courts in other California counties.

According to research from a state agency and GV Wire℠ inquiries, the Fresno court reported clearing 14.3% of eligible marijuana cases as of March 15. This is an update from an earlier report showing the Fresno court clearing only 6% (152 of 2,615) as of March 2.

Among 12 of the state’s most populous counties with figures available, Fresno ranks third worst when it comes to clearing marijuana records.

“We are not able to speak to the numbers reported by any other court or how they were reached, and therefore have no comparison to offer,” Fresno County court spokeswoman Suzanne Abi-Rached said.

As mandated by a 2018 state law known as AB 1793, Fresno courts received cases pegged for expungement from the Fresno County District Attorney’s office by April 2020.

Fresno Rates Low in Compliance

The Judicial Council — the policymaking body for the state court system, led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye —  recently conducted a survey of several counties on how they were complying with AB 1793.

The two most populous counties, Los Angeles and San Diego, have expunged all prior marijuana convictions. So has San Francisco County (12th most populous).

Fresno is the 10th largest county by population. Sacramento (8th) and Contra Costa (9th) counties have processed 86.5% and 85% respectively.

Of the top 15 most populous counties, only Riverside County — with 5% of the cases cleared — and Ventura County, at 0%, are worse.

Officials with Kern County (11th) said they are in the processing of expunging 2,796 cases. They did not have an update of how many have been completed thus far.

Similarly, a spokesman for Ventura County (13th) courts said they are also in the process of expunging or reducing cases following data problems.

“There were issues with the information provided. The list the DOJ (state Department of Justice) sent to the DA (district attorney) had a lot of bad data. The DA tried to rework it before giving it to the court in July of 2020, but it is still unusable in it’s current form,” Robert Sherman, the assistant court executive officer with Ventura County, said.

The Judicial Council said that their survey numbers are preliminary. Other complications included delays retrieving old cases, caused in part by the pandemic.

Several advocacy groups have said a marijuana convictions remaining on the books affect eligibility for public housing and limit employment opportunities.

Where Fresno County’s Court Ranks in Clearing Cases

Population rank County Population (2020) Percent of cases cleared
1. Los Angeles 10,184,378 100%
2. San Diego 3,340,312 100%
3. Orange 3,192,987 48%*
4. Riverside 2,422,146 5%*
5. San Bernardino 2,168,964 n/a
6. Santa Clara 1,954,833 100%
7. Alameda 1,664,783 n/a
8. Sacramento 1,541,301 87%*
9. Contra Costa 1,150,621 85%*
10. Fresno 1,015,195 14%*
11. Kern 908,405 n/a
12. San Francisco 891,021 100%*
13. Ventura 846,050 0%
14. San Joaquin 765,556 62%
15. San Mateo 774,231 100%

Population estimates based on Dept. of Finance as of 1/01/2020
* based on Judicial Council survey

 

David Taub has spent most of his career in journalism behind the scenes working as a TV assignment editor and radio producer. For more than a decade, he has worked in the Fresno market with such stops at KSEE-24, KMJ and Power Talk 96.7. Taub also worked the production and support side of some of TV sports biggest events including the Super Bowl, the NBA Finals and NASCAR to name a few. Taub graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email