Court Says Marijuana Law Can Challenge Convictions
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Court Says Marijuana Law Can Challenge Convictions
Posted by CN Staff on March 14, 2014 at 15:40:45 PT
By Jack Healy
Source: New York Times 
Denver -- A Colorado law that allows adults to legally possess and use marijuana may now allow some people found guilty of minor marijuana crimes to challenge their convictions in court, a state appeals court ruled on Thursday.The decision by the Colorado Court of Appeals stemmed from a 2010 drug case in which a woman from the mountains west of Denver was convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana and a concentrated form of the drug — both of which are now legal under a 2012 ballot measure approved by Colorado voters. Her lawyers argued that the legal landscape had shifted since she was charged and that her marijuana convictions should thus be thrown out.
The court agreed, saying that the legalization law, known as Amendment 64, could apply retroactively to minor drug offenses if people had already been appealing their convictions when the measure went into effect.Marijuana advocates cheered the decision, calling it a sign that growing public support for legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana was beginning to resonate in legal circles. They said it could help dozens of people to successfully overturn convictions for possessing less than an ounce of marijuana concentrate or for growing six or fewer marijuana plants in their homes — acts that were once illegal, but that are now allowed for adults 21 and over.“The fact that a court in Colorado, one of the first two states to do this, came to this conclusion will hopefully have some impact on how courts in other places look at this,” said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports overhauling drug laws.Still, the scope of the ruling is likely to be limited. It applies only to small amounts of marijuana that were made legal under Amendment 64, and it does not appear to open the floodgates to allow people to expunge decades-old marijuana convictions.As more states pursue measures to legalize or decriminalize marijuana, the police, prosecutors and courts are being forced to confront thorny questions about how to handle thousands of arrests and criminal cases in light of the drug’s shifting legal status. Should prosecutors pursue existing marijuana cases once the drug is legalized? Do people convicted of possession still have to pay their fines? Do people have to admit old marijuana convictions as part of a background check?Shortly after Colorado voters approved Amendment 64, prosecutors in Denver, Boulder and other parts of the state decided to drop pending marijuana cases that were legalized under the new law.The case at the center of Thursday’s appeals court decision began in March 2010, when Brandi Jessica Russell and her husband took their infant son to a hospital in Granby. Doctors found a fracture on the baby’s leg, grew suspicious about the injury and the parents’ behavior, and, suspecting abuse, alerted the authorities, according to the court’s ruling. The police found small amounts of methamphetamine, marijuana and drug paraphernalia in the couple’s home, and Ms. Russell was charged with child abuse and several drug charges.A jury acquitted her of abuse in 2011 but found her guilty of possessing methamphetamine and marijuana. The court upheld her methamphetamine conviction.Ms. Russell’s lawyer, Brian Emeson, said the court’s move to throw out the marijuana convictions was “grounded in the interests of justice.”“There’s certainly a tidal wave changing the attitudes of people,” Mr. Emeson said, “Now you’re seeing it in law enforcement and the judiciary.”A version of this article appears in print on March 14, 2014, on page A15 of the New York edition with the headline: Colorado Appeals Court Says Marijuana Law Can Be Used to Challenge ConvictionsSource: New York Times (NY)Author: Jack HealyPublished: March 14, 2014Copyright: 2014 The New York Times CompanyContact: letters nytimes.comWebsite:  -- Cannabis  Archives 
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Comment #1 posted by Richard Zuckerman on March 19, 2014 at 11:58:26 PT:
Those of you with federal pot convictions:
There is a federal law called The All Writs Act which permits federal convicts an opportunity to challenge your federal court convictions YEARS after your federal sentence has expired (and you would no longer be eligible for habeas corpus relief). The All Writs Act allows a federal convict to challenge your federal court conviction when you have discovered new evidence which would undermine a jury verdict, known as a writ of error coram nobis. The All Writs Act also allows a federal convict to challenge your federal court conviction when the law changes to provide you with a meaningful defense to the federal criminal charge. This writ is known as Audita Querela. It is THIS ancient common law writ of Audita Querela which would be the vehicle for a federal court conviction to be challenged based on a change in the law, such as when the conviction is for Cannabis "Marijuana" and the pot law has recently been repealed. I submitted an audita querela application to the Newark, N.J., federal trial court, back around 2008, but the court denied it. On appeal, the federal appeals judges, the opinion of which was authored by federal appeals judge Dolores Sloviter, affirmed the trial court decision denying me audita querela by using the standard for a writ of error coram nobis. Former Congressman Ron Paul said about a month ago that the decisions by judges are not always based on justice. Federal judges are sleazy, too. Its not only cops and prosecutors!! Its not only legislators!
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