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