This past June, sweeping changes to the expungement process went into effect that were passed by the New Jersey Legislature earlier in the year. These changes dramatically affect the approach and the process to any expungement and will help clients receive faster, more efficient expungements, and are more tailored to expediting the process especially for Marijuana convictions.
The most glaring change to the law is a change in the waiting periods for certain expungements. This change allows for several thousands of people to now be eligible for expungements. Now, for eligible criminal convictions, the waiting period has been lowered from six years to five years. However, with compelling circumstances the waiting period is lowered from five to four years. This is a deviation from the previous Public Interest Standard.
Another dramatic change is that New Jersey applicants, who have no serious crimes convictions, are now eligible to expunge their criminal record ten years after their most recent conviction, completion of probation or parole, fine payment, or release from incarceration. This “clean slate” legislation indicates a commitment to rehabilitation over punishment, rewarding individuals who have demonstrated their changed behavior. Those who have filed for criminal expungements previously can now apply for criminal record expungements, as well.
Additionally, individuals wishing to expunge separate convictions will notice some changes. For starters, with some exceptions, if you have two unrelated convictions, the most recent can be expunged. This is critical as it also introduces the order of the convictions as a factor in the process. A potential limit on this change would be that that if the second conviction on an individual’s record is not expungable due to the nature of the offense, the first conviction would thereby be ineligible for expungement.
In regard to drug related crimes, all are now treated as disorderly person’s offenses specifically for expungement related purposes only. The Legislature passed the Cannabis Related Reform. Meaning marijuana related crimes are not counted towards the limit of disorderly persons offenses allowed to be expunged, which is now increased from four to five. Additionally, marijuana offenses involving distribution or possession or having control with intent to distribute from one ounce up to five pounds or in a school zone, , will be considered disorderly persons offenses. Fourth degree marijuana offenses are also expungable. Finally, certain marijuana offenses can be expunged after 3 years without compelling circumstances.
Changes to filing fees, fines, and the promise of an automated filing system aim to prevent barriers to expungement. Recently, the typical $75 filing fee has been eliminated. Furthermore, the electronic filing system will eliminate the traditional petition process, increasing accessibility and eliminating some potential biases of the old process. More info on the automated filing system is to come, with a promised completion date of June 15, 2021. Finally, if an applicant owes fines, he or she may still be granted an expungement so long as the individual is not willfully noncompliant.
The Law Offices of Eric B. Morrell have been committed to fighting for our clients’ right to expungement for decades. We have had staff members attend training seminars on how to better file expungements so that we process them more efficiently. These legislative changes only further our ability to represent our clients’ best interests and allow the possibility of clean slates for more deserving individuals. If you are interested in pursuing an expungement and meet any of the criteria described above, please contact our offices for a consultation.