On Monday, February 22, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed three bills into law legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey. The laws decriminalize use and possession of limited amounts of marijuana for people twenty-one years of age and older.
On February 22, 2021, Attorney General Gubir S. Grewal published a directive governing dismissals of pending marijuana charges for any marijuana offense that is no longer illegal under state law. AG Grewal also published interim guidance to law enforcement officers regarding decriminalization of marijuana, including a section answering frequently asked questions.
While many are predicting that it will be at least a year before you will be able to legally purchase recreational marijuana, these bills have already made big changes. Use of limited quantities of marijuana is now legal. Additionally, possession of limited amounts of marijuana on your person or in your vehicle is legal. Distribution of limited quantities of “regulated cannabis” is also decriminalized, however, distribution of non-regulated marijuana or hashish remains criminalized under the new state laws. Another impactful change is what constitutes a “reasonable articulable suspicion” to initiate a stop or search. The Interim Guidance on Marijuana Decriminalization states, “the odor of marijuana or hashish, either burnt or raw, by itself no longer establishes ‘reasonable articulable suspicion’ to initiate a stop or search of a person or their vehicle to determine a violation of a possession offense or a fourth-degree distribution offense.”
What does all of this mean for residents those with prior criminal history for marijuana related offenses? If your offense is now legal under the new state laws, The Attorney General’s Office is directing the Courts as follows:
“For those cases already resolved, pursuant to the new decriminalization laws, the Administrative Office of the Courts will vacate by operation of law any guilty verdict, plea, placement in a diversionary program, or other entry of guilt on a matter where the conduct occurred prior to February 22, 2021. Also vacated will be any conviction, remaining sentence, ongoing supervision, or unpaid court-ordered financial assessment of any person who is or will be serving a sentence of incarceration, probation, parole or other form of community supervision as of February 22, 2021 as a result of the person’s conviction or adjudication of delinquency solely for the above listed charges.”
However, as of today, the Attorney General’s office has not announced any further directives as to the expungement process of marijuana related offenses that are not decriminalized. It is unclear whether there will be a new expungement process, an expedited process, etc.
If you have a marijuana-related offence on your criminal record that is not legal under the new state laws, you may be able to have that criminal history expunged. Expungement is the legal process by which your criminal history is sealed, with few exceptions. Expungement of your criminal record is beneficial for job applications, federal funding such as student loans and grants, housing applications, or any other situation where someone will be conducting a background check.
Do you have a marijuana-related offence on your record? Contact the Hunnell Law Group today to determine whether you are eligible for an expungement.
By: Caitlin Holland, Esq
Valentine’s Day is coming up and you know what that means: engagements! During the global COVID-19 pandemic, many couples have chosen or been forced to postpone their wedding. These couples are now benefitting from added time to contemplate their expectations for marriage. If you are one of those couples, you may want to consider one thing: in the immortal words of Kanye West, “If you ain’t no punk, holla ‘we want prenups!’”
What is a prenup? A prenup, or prenuptial agreement, is a written contract that a couple enters into prior to getting legally married. A prenup allows a couple to control the legal rights they acquire upon marriage and negotiate what happens when the marriage ends, by death or divorce. In order for a prenup to be considered valid there must be full disclosure, fair terms, and the negotiation and execution of the document must be free of duress.
Why should I consider a prenup? A prenup allows a couple to decide how to manage the legal rights and assets they acquire upon marriage and negotiate what happens when the marriage ends. This is especially beneficial to individuals who own their own property, businesses, have children from a prior marriage, inheritance, and assets and/or debts. Prenups are tailored to your exact needs and objectives, however, they are not always right for every marriage and there is no “one size fits all.” Common topics addressed in prenups are: property and assets acquired before the marriage, property and assets acquired during the marriage, spousal support upon divorce, beneficiary designations, social media posts and consent, and pets.
Divorce is expensive. Deciding to get a prenup can save you time and money in a divorce by effectively streamlining aspects of the settlement process. Only, those assets and properties not already settled in the prenup will be addressed during a divorce proceeding.
Beyond the possible streamlining of divorce, prenups also set the couple’s expectations regarding asset management and marital lifestyle. A leading cause of stress and argument in marriages is finances. A prenup forces a couple to actively communicate regarding all aspects of the marriage as a contract. Prenups give couples the ability to lay everything on the table including expectations as to finances and marital lifestyle. Prenups are not bad luck and you should not be offended if your significant other asks for one. Think of a prenup like investing in insurance – you may never need it, but it’s there if you do.
We had children before we were married, or are planning to have children when we are married, can a prenup settle child support and custody matters? No. Courts in New Jersey will not accept any terms related to child custody or child support in a prenuptial agreement.
I’m already married, can I still get a prenup? No. However, New Jersey does recognize postnuptial agreements for couples who are already legally married and are not contemplating divorce.
We have a prenup, but things have changed since we got married, can we change it? Yes! A prenup can be amended by a married couple at any point in the marriage to reflect changed circumstances.
Contact us to discuss whether a prenup is the right choice for you!
By Caitlin Holland, Esquire
New Jersey residents’ vote to legalize recreational marijuana has many wondering what effect legalization will have on expungements in the state. The question remains unanswered, but marijuana offenses are not the only crimes eligible for expungement.
An expungement is “removal and isolation” of your criminal record. Contrary to popular belief, expungements do not clear or erase your record. Rather, they ensure that your record is not generally available or visible to the public.
Mistakes happen. Having a criminal record can hinder your everyday life. Even if you were not charged, your arrest will still be visible on your record.
Expungements are extremely beneficial to obtain before you submit any application where the reviewer will conduct a background check. These applications include: job applications, professional licenses, college applications, financial aid, and private and public housing. Once expunged, employers, landlords, creditors, etc. will not be able to view your criminal history. Your report will simply state that there is no record. If you are applying to a Federal or law enforcement position, your criminal record will still be visible due to the nature of the employment.
Your eligibility to have your criminal record expunged depends on a number of factors, including: the nature of the crime committed; whether an arrest resulted in a conviction; the time passed since the disposition of the offense; and whether any fines have been paid in full. Effective June 2020, you may apply for a “clean slate” expungement 10 years after your most recent conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from prison. There are crimes that cannot be expunged such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, robbery, sexual assault, perjury, etc. If you have any convictions for offenses that cannot be expunged, you will not be eligible for a “clean slate” expungement.
During the pandemic, the complete expungement process can take anywhere from three months to nine months due to delays in state offices. If you are planning on submitting any applications in the near future, you should consider petitioning for an expungement soon.
If you have a marijuana conviction and you are waiting to see what happens with the legalization of recreational marijuana in NJ, you may be waiting a long time. On January 1, 2021, recreation marijuana was slated to be legalized in the State of New Jersey. However, the state legislature is effectively at a standstill with negotiations crumbling in Trenton.  At this point, recreational marijuana is still illegal in New Jersey and the Attorney General’s adjournment of marijuana convictions expires on January 25, 2021. With no updates from the Attorney General since November 25, 2020, legalization is in limbo and its effect on expungements is still unclear.
Don’t wait to apply for an expungement. Schedule a meeting with us today to determine your eligibility!
By Caitlin Holland, Esquire
Stephanie Hunnell, Esq. , Ryan Westerman, Esq. and Caitlin Holland, Esq.