In mid-December 2014 the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee reported favorably upon legislation which would shorten expungement of criminal convictions. Importantly, this proposed legislation will permit Drug Court graduates to expunge their entire criminal record. This will provide a significant incentive for Defendants to enter and complete Drug Court.
The current wave of heroin and opiate addiction sweeping through New Jersey will require thoughtful approaches to rectify. This proposed legislation is a step in the right direction. People who develop drug addictions and successfully complete Drug Court should be commended and not saddled with a scarlet letter for a minimum of 5 years after completing 1 to 5 year probationary period.
While previous legislation did create an “early pathway” expungement after 5 years, the proposed legislation will make this avenue more widely available. Of particular importance with the proposed legislation is the reduction in the waiting period for the expungement for disorderly person’s offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses. The current law requires a waiting period of 5 years. The proposal will reduce this to 3 years. Given the fact that many such offenses occur with the 18-23 year old population (e.g. possession of marijuana) this suggested language is an important step towards returning young people to the work force. Another very important change in the proposed legislation would be the automatic expungement of arrest which do not result in conviction. Under the current law if you are charged with a crime or disorderly persons offense and if the charge is subsequently dismissed or you are found not guilty, you must still engage an attorney and jump through all of the hoops required for a formal expungement.
The proposed rule change will make such expungements almost automatic. It is our hope that New Jersey Legislature adopts this long overdue amendment in its entirety. Far too many hard-working New Jerseyans suffer prejudice and discrimination because of minor criminal histories. If you or someone you know needs help with an expungement do not hesitate to contact Marc E. Leibman, Esq. at Kaufman, Semeraro & Leibman, LLP for a consultation regarding how to clear your record.