March 15, 2024

The Hawaii House of Representatives recently passed House Bill 1595 (HB 1595), which the Senate will soon review. This bill would create a state-initiated process to expunge eligible criminal records at no cost. According to the House, it would “expunge records of arrests and convictions for the offense of promoting a detrimental drug.” 

Hawaii already has an expungement program for people with non-convictions. There are programs for some first-time alcohol, property, and drug offenses as well. However, some have criticized the existing program due to its costs and the difficulty many allegedly face navigating it.

HB 1595 would automatically expunge eligible low-level marijuana possession cases at no cost to the individuals affected. This change also affects those with convictions for possessing three grams of marijuana. The bill would also automatically expunge these records, regardless of whether it is a first-time offense.

It currently costs $35 to apply for a first-time expungement and $50 for any expungements after the first. However, $10 of these applications are non-refundable. Other related steps include obtaining a court order and retaining an attorney. Unfortunately, these costs can make it difficult for some people to expunge their records. 

Should they overcome these hurdles, another step that significantly delays expungement requires the court to review the requested cases’ removal. According to Last Prisoner Project’s policy advisor, Frank Steifel, connecting court records with police agencies’ data is like “following the breadcrumbs.” Though necessary to ensure the courts expunge the correct cases, the process often takes months.

Passing HB 1595’s free state-initiated program would allow anyone qualified for an expungement to obtain one. According to HB 1595, the Hawaii Criminal Justice Data Center would identify cases made eligible for expungement within 30 days of its enactment. The data center must forward this data to the state courts, county police departments, state attorney general’s office, and county prosecuting attorneys. 

The attorney general’s office must issue expungement orders “annulling, canceling, and rescinding all criminal records, including records of arrest and any records of conviction.” The office must do so within 60 days of receiving the biennial reports. These records include arrests, convictions, pending charges, petty misdemeanor convictions, and civil violations. Within one year of receiving these orders, “the judiciary [must] seal or otherwise remove from its publicly accessible electronic databases all judiciary files and other information pertaining to each eligible case, including, where applicable, any records of arrest, indictment, trial, verdict, dismissal, or discharge.”

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.