If you live in New Jersey and have been convicted of drug trafficking or distribution, then you are likely curious if it is possible to erase that conviction from your criminal record. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to use the legal process of expungement to get rid of your prior conviction. In this article, we'll define expungements, discuss which drug trafficking or distribution crimes are eligible for expungement, and describe how the expungement process operates in New Jersey.
What is an Expungement?
An expungement is a legal method and process to erase a criminal conviction. In New Jersey, you may expunge one prior conviction or episode for an indictable offense. To be successful in an expungement application, you will first need to be determined eligible for expungement. In February 2021, the state of New Jersey enacted sweeping changes to expungement laws and requirements. An example of a major change in expungement laws was the enactment of the “Clean Slate” legislation.
Clean Slate allows a qualifying individual the potential to expunge their entire criminal record once ten years have passed since the end of their final conviction. New Jersey also made other significant changes to expungement laws, including:
- The ability to seek an expungement if you have multiple convictions.
- Drug offense convictions are now treated as disorderly person's convictions by judges for expungement purposes.
- The ability to immediately seek expungement for certain marijuana and hashish convictions.
- The ability to seek an expungement after five years have passed from the end of your sentence, reducing the waiting period by one year.
This is just a partial list of the many changes that have been made to New Jersey's expungement laws in 2021. It is important to know that a successful expungement application will only affect your public governmentally maintained criminal record. A private database that the government operates will always have your prior criminal history, regardless of your success in seeking an expungement. Only police, prosecutors, and other government agencies have access to this private database.
Which Drug Trafficking or Distribution Crimes Can Be Expunged?
Certain drug crimes can be expunged under New Jersey law if you meet the specific requirements for eligibility. Drug trafficking and distribution crimes that are eligible for expungement include convictions under the New Jersey Revised Statutes found at 2C:35-5. This catch-all drug trafficking law includes convictions for drugs of all kinds and deals with:
- Drug manufacturing
- Drug distribution
- Drug dispensing
The level of these crimes is based on the weight of the drugs involved. To make sure that you are eligible to seek expungement, first make sure that you get an official copy of your criminal record issued by New Jersey and get in touch with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
Expungement Process in New Jersey
Once you have confirmed that you meet the requirements to apply for expungement, the next step is to complete your expungement application. Your expungement application must include your:
- Correct arrest date;
- Specific state law citations relating to your arrests or convictions;
- Case numbers for all cases;
- The date you were convicted; and
- The court's ultimate disposition and sentence.
You will also have to include an affidavit ensuring the court that you are not facing any current or potential criminal charges with your application for expungement. Your expungement application must be filed with the court of your most recent conviction.
When you properly file your expungement application, the court will then set a hearing date to hear and decide your case. It is not always required that you attend your expungement hearing, but make sure that you receive notice that you don't have to appear before deciding not to. Generally, if the prosecutor objects to your expungement application, then you will likely have to appear for your expungement hearing. If the prosecutor does not object to your expungement application, then it is possible that you may be excused from attending the hearing. If you are successful in your expungement application, then the court will send you a copy of the court order in the mail verifying your expungement success. This document is important, as your expungement will not be effective until you hand-deliver the order to the proper state agencies so they can erase the associated conviction(s) from your public criminal record.
Benefits of Getting an Expungement
If you are successful in your expungement application, then you can finally avoid many of the collateral consequences of a conviction. Benefits of an expungement include:
- Regaining the Constitutional right to own a firearm
- Being conviction-free on most job or housing applications
- Being able to seek federal assistance that is not available to convicted persons
If there are social media posts or news articles about your conviction or case, it is important to know that these records will likely stay unchanged if you are granted an expungement.
What Are Some Reasons Why an Expungement Will Be Denied?
There are many pitfalls that can occur when applying for expungement. You can have your application denied for many reasons. Eligibility is key; if you are attempting an expungement when you are not eligible, or your conviction is not eligible, then the court will deny your application. The following convictions cannot be expunged under New Jersey law:
- Sexual assault/Rape
These are not all of the convictions that cannot be expunged in New Jersey. You can also be denied for filing an incomplete or inaccurate expungement application. If you have questions regarding your eligibility for an expungement, then call us at the Lento Law Firm so we can help.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are looking to expunge a prior conviction for drug trafficking or distribution in New Jersey, then having an experienced expungement lawyer on your side can help prevent the mistakes that many make when applying for an expungement. Call attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring us is the right choice to help you prepare and file your application for an expungement. You can also contact us online.