The process of expungement allows individuals with criminal convictions to file a petition with the court to have any conviction records removed. Just recently, the state's lawmakers have relaxed many of the restrictions to expungement. The provisions that relate to eligibility are contained in the state's statutes and vary according to the type of offense committed, whether the individual has had other convictions, and other factors.
Marijuana-Related Offenses in New Jersey
Data from the FBI indicates that more people are arrested for marijuana-related offenses in New Jersey than in all U.S. states except Texas and New York. Steven Somogyi, of the New Jersey Judiciary, explained that since 1990 there have been over 1 million arrests solely for simple possession of marijuana statewide. Approximately 40% of these charges have been filed since 2008.
Traditionally, most drug charges that relate to sales or distribution were ineligible for expungement. The laws that relate specifically to marijuana are less stringent. When the offense involves less than 25 grams of marijuana or 5 grams of hashish, the offender is eligible for expungement. In addition, third and fourth-degree drug distribution convictions are eligible for expungement if the court finds that doing so is “consistent with the public interest.”
Young Drug Offenders Expungement (2C:52-5)
The state has had provisions that apply specifically to offenders that are under the age of 21 with drug-related convictions. They apply to possession of or using controlled substances. In these situations, the young offenders are potentially eligible for expungement after merely a period of one year if:
- The individual has not been convicted of any subsequent offenses.
- Efforts and progress have been made to pay fines and/or restitution. Those who have willfully not complied with their financial responsibility are not eligible.
- All other conditions imposed as a result of the offense have been satisfied.
Recent Change for Alternative or Diversionary Dismissals
Up until recently, those who had a prior conviction dismissed after entering and completing certain special programs geared toward first-time offenders were not eligible for expungement. This included programs such as those referred to as “pre-trial intervention” or “alternative” diversionary sentencing. These are common in jurisdictions that have specialized drug courts and such. This new law now allows these individuals to petition for expungement.
Juvenile Expungement (2C:52-4.1)
Records of juvenile delinquency have long been eligible for expungement five years after the individual has been discharged from detention, probation, or other related supervision. Recent statutory changes have now lowered the eligibility requirement to a three year period. Certain very severe acts such as murder, manslaughter, arson, and rape are not eligible for expungement regardless if they involve a juvenile or an adult.
Importance of Having an Experienced Defense Attorney
Having a criminal conviction on your record may significantly impede you when subjected to background checks. Many employers conduct criminal background checks for potential new hires. Others who commonly conduct screening include educational institutions, apartment communities, and agencies involved in professional licensing. It is important to retain legal counsel when facing a potential criminal conviction, as well as when seeking to expunge a past conviction.
New Jersey Lawyer for Expungement of Criminal Convictions
Joseph D. Lento is a seasoned criminal defense attorney that represents clients in the criminal court system. For a complimentary case evaluation, contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.