Expunging NJ Drug Possession Convictions

Society maintains and pays attention to criminal records for sound reasons having mainly to do with the potential danger or dishonesty of the convicted person. Criminal history checks are a common occurrence in modern American life. Even a criminal history for drug possession, which is hardly America's worst crime, could potentially raise reliability and stability questions for employers, graduate and professional schools, landlords, and even lenders.

Yet, at the same time, a criminal history can unfairly cripple a person who has paid society's debt and reformed and rehabilitated to the point of being a safe and trustworthy contributor to society. That concern over crippling unfairness is why states like New Jersey adopt expungement laws. Expungement laws shift from employers, landlords, and others, who generally have little data on which to make sound judgments about past crimes, to courts the role of deciding what should be a disqualifying crime. Courts know well, for instance, that drug possession is not generally among society's most serious crimes.

Why Expungement Laws Work

New Jersey's expungement statute N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-1 authorizes “the extraction, sealing, impounding, or isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system.” That provision means that expunged drug possession records do not generally appear in searches of government records.

New Jersey's expungement statute also means that in most cases, a person need not disclose the expunged drug possession conviction even when an employer, landlord, school, or agency asks. If you have a drug possession record you want or need to expunge, then contact New Jersey expungement attorney Joseph Lento now by calling (888) 535-3686 or going online.

New Jersey Drug Possession Crimes

The relatively straightforward part of New Jersey's drug possession statute N.J. Stat. § 2C:35-10 makes it a crime “knowingly or purposely ... to possess, actually or constructively, a controlled dangerous substance ..., unless the substance was obtained ... pursuant to a valid prescription or order from a practitioner ... acting in the course of ... professional practice….” To suffer conviction, the person must know they possess the drug illegally, without valid order or prescription.

New Jersey's drug possession statute is not straightforward but is instead complex when defining how serious the possession crime is. Under N.J. Stat. § 2C:35-10, whether the drug possession crime constitutes a minor disorderly persons offense or a serious indictable offense up to the third or fourth degree depends on the drug and quantity possessed.

Federal law categorizes controlled substances into Schedules I, II, III, IV, and V, depending on qualities like their beneficial use versus their harmful effects and addictive properties. Heroin is a Schedule I drug having no beneficial use but highly addictive and deadly properties. Cocaine, having some use as an anesthetic but still being highly addictive and harmful, is a Schedule II drug. New Jersey's drug possession statute N.J. Stat. § 2C:35-10 uses the federal schedules, with some modification, to classify the seriousness of the drug possession offense.

Expunging a Drug Possession Conviction

New Jersey's expungement statute for indictable offenses, N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-2, generally permits expungement of drug possession offenses, with certain exceptions and under several conditions. The statute does not list drug possession among the more serious convictions excluded from expungement, which are “murder, manslaughter, treason, anarchy, kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, arson, perjury, false swearing, robbery, embracery,” and attempts and conspiracies to commit, and aiding and abetting, those more-serious crimes.

The conditions N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-2 imposes for expunging a drug possession conviction include that the person seeking expungement must generally have only that one conviction in New Jersey or another state. Persons with multiple criminal convictions do not qualify for expunging a drug possession record unless the other convictions were three or fewer disorderly persons offenses or petty offenses, or the other convictions were all under a single judgment of conviction or closely related in their circumstances.

Significantly, N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-2 does expressly exclude from expungement convictions for the sale or distribution of controlled dangerous substances, or possession with the intent to sell, unless the sale, distribution, or intent to sell involved smaller amounts of marijuana or hashish. New Jersey's expungement statute for indictable offenses, N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-2, permits expungement of drug sale or distribution offenses involving smaller amounts of marijuana or hashish. Read these other pages on expunging drug cultivation and manufacturing convictions or drug trafficking and distribution convictions.

Young Offenders. New Jersey's expungement statutes also include a provision N.J. Stat. § 2C:52-5 allowing younger drug offenders, those no older than twenty-one, to expunge a conviction for possession or use of a controlled dangerous substance just one year after the latest of conviction, termination of probation or parole, and discharge from custody. This provision does not extend to drug sale or distribution other than smaller amounts of marijuana or hashish. The young offender must also not have committed other crimes, among other expungement conditions.

Reasons to Retain NJ Expungement Attorney Joseph D. Lento

The above information accurately outlines how New Jersey's expungement statutes generally treat drug possession crimes. Yet those statutes have abundant exceptions and conditions, making qualifying for expungement easier for some applicants and difficult or even impossible for other applicants. New Jersey's legislature also recently eased some expungement terms and conditions. Do not assume that you don't qualify for expungement, and don't assume that you do. Whether you can expunge a drug possession record can depend on several twists and turns in the expungement laws that are not evident from the above summary.

Instead, the reliable thing to do is to contact New Jersey expungement attorney Joseph D. Lento to review your drug possession or other record. Let attorney Lento help you determine whether you qualify. Know, too, that expungement procedures are not as simple as you might assume. You must follow the steps in the right order with the right documentation. Let attorney Lento represent you before the court so that your expungement works as it should, giving you the second chance that you've earned. Contact the Lento Law Firm now by calling (888) 535-3686 any day or night or going online here.

​​​Contact The Lento Law Firm Today


When it comes to criminal defense cases, you need the right person in your corner. To learn more about how Mr. Lento can help you, call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. or contact him online.

This website was created only for general information purposes. It is not intended to be construed as legal advice for any situation. Only a direct consultation with a licensed Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York attorney can provide you with formal legal counsel based on the unique details surrounding your situation. The pages on this website may contain links and contact information for third party organizations - the Lento Law Firm does not necessarily endorse these organizations nor the materials contained on their website. In Pennsylvania, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout Pennsylvania's 67 counties, including, but not limited to Philadelphia, Allegheny, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Chester, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lehigh, Monroe, Montgomery, Northampton, Schuylkill, and York County. In New Jersey, attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New Jersey's 21 counties: Atlantic, Bergen, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Hudson, Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Ocean, Passaic, Salem, Somerset, Sussex, Union, and Warren County, In New York, Attorney Joseph D. Lento represents clients throughout New York's 62 counties. Outside of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, unless attorney Joseph D. Lento is admitted pro hac vice if needed, his assistance may not constitute legal advice or the practice of law. The decision to hire an attorney in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania counties, New Jersey, New York, or nationwide should not be made solely on the strength of an advertisement. We invite you to contact the Lento Law Firm directly to inquire about our specific qualifications and experience. Communicating with the Lento Law Firm by email, phone, or fax does not create an attorney-client relationship. The Lento Law Firm will serve as your official legal counsel upon a formal agreement from both parties. Any information sent to the Lento Law Firm before an attorney-client relationship is made is done on a non-confidential basis.