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RECORD CLEANER

New Jersey’s New and Lenient Expungement Laws Help You Clear Your Record

If you are worried that your criminal record is holding you back in applying for schools, applying for jobs, applying for the military – you could be right. Your past is messing with your future. What can you do in the present to fix that?

A Petition for Expungement can erase or remove completely your criminal record –  and that process just got quite a bit easier and more lenient, thanks to former New Jersey governor Chris Christie.

In December of 2017, a month before he left office, Christie signed a trio of Democrat-inspired, bipartisan bills, designed to make it easier for convicted criminals to apply for jobs despite criminals stains on their records, and ease limitations on expunging those stains for good. The law changes were part of a broader legacy of criminal justice reforms, which included New Jersey’s bail system overhaul from money-based to responsibility-based.

On Wednesday December 20, 2017 Governor Christie sat a table surrounded by Democrats, including main bill sponsor Senator Sandra Cunningham, and Senate President Stephen Sweeney: “A minor criminal offense should not lead to a lifetime of punishment,” Cunningham said, to explain the philosophy behind all three of the bills.

In explaining bill S3306 Governor Christie said the new laws will give minor offenders “the opportunity to provide their own personal history during an employment interview rather than being prejudged by their criminal record.”

S3306 lays down new rules for employers regarding the criminal history of a potential employee:

  1. An employer shall not require an applicant for employment to complete any employment application that makes any inquiries regarding an applicant’s criminal record, including an expunged criminal record, during the initial employment application process.

      2. An employer shall not make any oral [or] , written, or online inquiry regarding an applicant’s criminal record, including an expunged criminal record, during the initial employment application process.

S3307 is a longer, more complicated bill which revises procedures for expunging criminal and other records and information, including shortening of certain waiting periods for expungement eligibility and increasing number of convictions which may be expunged. S3307 also allows expungement for convictions of Controlled Dangerous Substance offenses.

S3307 allows a citizen to erase as many as four offenses or groups of offenses that occurred within a short period of time, provided the person has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent offenses. S3307 also adds the crime of possession of marijuana with the intent to sell up to an ounce. And S3307 allows a person to seek expungement as early as six years, rather than 10, after the completion of all prison and post-release monitoring time and payment of all fines, with even earlier expungement possible if a person needs only to pay a fine and the court agrees.

S3307 also reduces expungement waiting periods when hold ups are caused by failure to pay a fine or restitution – but only if the court finds expungement to be in the public’s best interest. Governor Christie explained: “We don’t want someone’s inability to make a payment for restitution or a fine from being able to expunge their record. How do you expect them to get a job to pay the restitution or the fine if you don’t allow them to expunge their record?”

S3307 states that these crimes can never be expunged: “Records of conviction for the following crimes specified in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice shall not be subject to expungement: Criminal Homicide (except death by auto), Kidnapping, Luring or Enticing, Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault or Aggravated Sexual Assault, Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact, Criminal Sexual Contact, Criminal Restraint, Robbery, Arson and Related Offenses, Child Endangerment, Child Pornography, Sexual Exploitation or Abuse of Children, False Swearing, Terrorism, Producing or Possessing Chemical Weapons, Biological Agents or Nuclear or Radiological Devices.

With the change from the conservative Republican Christie regime to the Democratic Murphy governorship, New Jersey is expected to have more lenient criminal penalties for possession of Controlled Dangerous Substances (CDS).  Governor Christie got ahead of that by making these changes to the Expungement laws.

Under S3307, Expungement is allowed in cases of

(1)   Marijuana, where the total quantity sold, distributed or possessed with intent to sell was [25 grams or] less than one ounce;

(2)   Hashish, where the total quantity sold, distributed or possessed with intent to sell was [five grams or] less than five grams; or

(3)   Any controlled dangerous substance provided that the conviction is of the third or fourth degree, where the court finds that expungement is consistent with the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the petitioner’s character and conduct since conviction.

          d. In the case of a State licensed physician or podiatrist convicted of an offense involving drugs or alcohol the court shall notify the State Board of Medical Examiners upon receipt of a petition for expungement of the conviction and records and information pertaining thereto.

S3308 states cuts down the waiting period to expunge an entire juvenile record from five years to three years.

The three bills are actually more complicated than the terse synopsis above – particularly S3307. If you or a loved one have a criminal record and are eager to expunge those records and move ahead in life, Monmouth, Middlesex, Ocean and Mercer County expungement lawyer Tara Breslow-Testa has many years of experience representing citizens who had their records expunged using the previous laws – and understands how the new laws make it easier for juveniles and adults to clear their records.

For a free consultation, contact Tara Breslow-Testa at (732) 784-2880.