April 10, 2024

Hawaii’s state Senate has considered House Bill 1595 (HB 1595). This bill makes the state responsible for starting the expungement process for some convictions and arrests for minor drug offenses. However, the bill received significant modifications during a hearing with the Senate’s Committee on Judiciary.

The first draft of HB 1595 proposed a process for the state to start the expungement process. This process would apply to criminal records with arrests or convictions for third-degree promoting a detrimental drug. In addition, it would require the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center to file biennial reports with the legislature. This requirement would continue until the state finishes expunging all eligible records.

Hawaii decriminalized the possession of marijuana for less than three grams in 2019. As such, the state allows individuals to expunge relevant criminal records in some situations. However, the current law requires these people to start the process, correctly complete it, and afford it. Passing HB 1595 would change this process.

However, the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation opposed the bill. As such, the state Judiciary recommended further study. This decision resulted in the committee’s acceptance of an alternative approach: a pilot program proposed by the Attorney General’s office.

The Attorney General’s office had several concerns about HB 1595. The office explained that the bill promoted a detrimental drug in the third degree. Doing so would remove its status as an offense, but would not remove it from the penal code. Another issue concerned the difficulty of locating individuals eligible for expungement. They argued the challenge came from lack of personal information needed in finding eligible individuals. Finally, the office worried that HB 1595 would apply to those arrested or convicted of possessing Schedule V substances other than marijuana.

The pilot program proposed by the Attorney General’s office would address these concerns. For example, it would define the eligibility to ensure only marijuana records qualified. The program would include individuals charged with marijuana possession under Section 712-1249 HRS. However, their arrest must have concluded in a non-conviction disposition to qualify.

The pilot program has since received the committee’s endorsement. As such, the pilot program would span 14 months with a manageable number of cases. To ensure they work within workable perimeters, the state will limit the pilot program to the island of Hawaii. It remains uncertain whether HB 1595 will move forward after Hawaii completes its pilot program.

Information provided here is for educational and informational purposes only and should not constitute as legal advice. We recommend you contact your own legal counsel for any questions regarding your specific practices and compliance with applicable laws.