June 10, 2024

The Hawaii House of Representatives passed House Bill 1595 (HB 1595), changing the expungement process for certain criminal records. However, it still requires the state Senate’s approval to pass. Passing HB 1595 and SB 2689 would create a state-initiated process to “expunge records of arrests and convictions for the offense of promoting a detrimental drug.”

As such, anyone with a qualifying arrest or conviction for low-level marijuana possession can expect automatic expungements. It would take place without costing the individual anything. Qualification includes those convicted for possessing three grams of marijuana, even for repeat offenses.

The existing program requires individuals to apply for an expungement. They may apply for non-conviction or some first-time offenses. Examples include first-time property, drug, or alcohol cases. Unfortunately, the process has proven challenging and costly for many.

Those who applied under the current expungement program had to pay $35 for the first request. Following expungements would cost them $50 per request. Whether it is their first or later, $10 of the fee is non-refundable. Furthermore, many find it crucial to hire an attorney to help them. The cost can make it difficult for some people to afford an expungement.

Passing HB 1595 would make the process state-initiated and accessible for anyone with eligible records. As such, individuals wishing for expungements may acquire one faster and without cost. HB 1595 would also require the Hawaii Criminal Data Center to determine which cases qualify for expungement.

This process must begin within 30 days of the bill’s enactment. Once collected, the data center will send it to county prosecuting attorneys, the state attorney general’s office, county police departments, and state courts. Once it receives the biennial reports, the attorney general’s office would have 60 days to issue expungement orders.

These orders would annul, cancel, and rescind any criminal records, including arrest and conviction records. The records expunged would include those for pending charges and civil violations. Within a year of receiving these orders, “the judiciary shall 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.”

For now, the bill must undergo review by the state Senate. Should it pass, the Governor will decide whether to sign it. Signing it into law would allow many people to receive long-awaited expungements. Those with eligible records should conduct self-background checks to determine which cases qualify. If HB 1595 becomes law, conducting another self-check will inform individuals whether the state has completed the expungement processes for them.

Click here to run a self background check