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New Expungement Law Expands Eligibility in New Jersey

Who is Now Eligible to Expunge their Criminal Records in NJ?

New Jersey Expungement Rules UpdateNew Jersey’s latest expungement reform that became effective in June 2020 has changed the scope of expungements in New Jersey overnight. Although many changes have occurred in terms of eligibility, the most significant changes are related to the Clean Slate provisions and marijuana convictions. This article seeks to address the overall statutory enactments and amendments regarding certain marijuana convictions and the Clean Slate provisions contained in NJ Bill S4154. If you are seeking an expungement in New Jersey and wondering if you may be eligible or how an attorney can help you to successfully carry out the process for expunging your criminal record, contact The Tormey Law Firm at (201)-556-1570 for a consultation free of charge.

Understanding Clean Slate Automated Expungements

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5.4, all convictions, records and information will be rendered inaccessible to the public, through sealing, expungement, or some equivalent process, for any person who has been convicted of one or more crimes, one or more disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses, or a combination of both under the laws of the State, unless an individual has a conviction for a crime that is not eligible for expungement. This will occur upon the expiration of ten years from the date of the person’s most recent conviction, payment of any court-ordered financial assessment, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, whichever is later. The automated process will be designed to restore a person’s convictions and other information contained in the person’s criminal history if he or she is subsequently convicted of a crime not eligible for expungement. In addition, a prosecutor may submit the restored history to the Court for sentencing. A special Task Force will oversee the automated expungement procedures.

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 20:52-5.3, an eligible individual can submit a petition for expungement to the Court until an automated process goes into effect. Thus, he or she can apply for an expungement “if the person has been convicted of one or more crimes, one or more disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses, or a combination of one or more crimes and offenses under the laws of this State unless the person has a conviction for a crime which is not subject to expungement.” An application can be presented regardless of whether the person would otherwise be ineligible due to a prior expungement of a criminal conviction.

Under this section of the statute, a person may file an application 10 years after one’s most recent conviction, payment of “court-ordered financial assessments,” release from incarceration, or satisfactory completion of probation or parole. If the 10-year waiting period has passed but a person has not yet fulfilled payment for a court-ordered financial assessment and this is not resulting from willful refusal to comply, they may still apply for an expungement. A civil judgment for the amount owed will be transferred to the State Treasurer. Moreover, no expungement applications may be filed pursuant to this section after the establishment of the automated “clean slate” process. In the event someone has already filed a pending Clean Slate petition, it will be withdrawn and considered moot once the automated process goes into effect.

New Jersey Will Handle Expungement of Marijuana Related Offenses Differently

According to the expungement bill passed in 2019 and effective June 15, 2020, regarding certain acts related to marijuana and hashish: “no later than three months after the effective date of this section, the Administrative Office of the Courts shall develop and maintain a system for sealing records from the public, upon order of a court, pertaining to offenses or delinquent acts involving marijuana or hashish.” Thus, courts shall order nondisclosure to the public.

There is no waiting period for expungement for simple possession, failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish, being under the influence of those substances, and simple possession of drug paraphernalia. This also includes school zone or public areas, distribution and intent to distribute for less than one ounce of marijuana and less than five grams of hashish.

With certain indictable level marijuana convictions for third degree and fourth degree crimes, such as distribution, possession with intent to distribute, school zone/public housing offenses, they are now treated as disorderly persons offenses for expungement eligibility purposes. In addition, disorderly persons convictions for marijuana/hashish possession, being under the influence, failure to turn over these substances to law enforcement, and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use, are no longer considered for expungement eligibility purposes.

Lastly, for “compelling reasons” expungements, compelling reasons do not need to be shown for distribution, intent to distribute marijuana/hashish, marijuana less than five pounds/hashish less than one pound, or offenses within school zone/public housing.

New Waiting Periods for Expunging Your Criminal Record in New Jersey

The following is a helpful chart indicating the waiting periods for expungement of convictions under the new law in New Jersey.

Type of ConvictionTime Passed
Clean Slate (entire record of arrest and convictions)10 years
Indictable Conviction (and up to 3 Disorderly Persons)5 years
Indictable Conviction (and up to 3 Disorderly Persons) —Compelling CircumstancesAt least 4 years
Disorderly Persons (up to 5)*5 years
Disorderly Persons (up to 5)— Compelling CircumstancesAt least 3 years
Municipal Ordinance Violation2 years
Individual Juvenile Delinquency AdjudicationsSame as adult offenses
Entire Juvenile Record3 years
Certain Drug Offenses for Young Offenders1 year
Certain Marijuana-Related OffensesImmediately to 3 years
Arrests Not Resulting in Conviction, Veterans Diversion ProgramImmediately
Special Probation (Drug Court) or Court-ordered RehabilitationImmediately
Supervised Treatment Program, Conditional Discharge, and Conditional Dismissal or other diversion program6 months

 

“Time Passed” is the time elapsed since the most recent conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, whichever is later.

It is important to note: the payment of fine requirement might be relaxed if you were in substantial comp!iance with a court-ordered payment plan or could not do so because of your financial condition. Further, if you still owe fines, the court may still grant your expungement provided you were on a court-ordered payment plan and not willfully noncompliant. In such a case, the court may enter a civil judgment against you, collectable by the State Treasurer.

Additional Expungement Considerations under the New Law

There are several other significant modifications to New Jersey’s expungement rules and policies that are important to know. For instance, if a person has two or more unrelated crimes, the latest “expungeable” conviction can be sealed following the appropriate waiting period. In addition, dismissals/acquittals/discharges without conviction are to be automatically expunged. However, this is not applicable to dismissals in accordance with a plea agreement. Also, you must now include a statement regarding whether an applicant has changed his or her name (or not) with relevant details if appropriate. Further, eFiling of expungements will be soon integrated with a timeline for objections by State Police.

Who Can Help me with Expunging my Record in New Jersey?

Should you have any additional questions, concerns or require clarity in any way, please do not hesitate to contact the knowledgeable NJ expungement lawyers at The Tormey Law Firm. We can help with assessing your criminal history, clarifying your eligibility, and completing the entire expungement process on your behalf. Just call (201)-556-1570 or contact us online to learn more in a free consultation.

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