Here on the Law Office of Eric M. Mark Blog, we recently published this blog, the first part of a two-part blog series on recent changes to New Jersey’s expungement laws. As discussed in the first part of this blog, expungement laws in New Jersey are some of the strictest in the country.
It is oftentimes exceedingly and discouragingly difficult for people with criminal records to get decent jobs, receive financial aid for school, obtain professional licenses, find housing, obtain credit, and gain custody rights of a child, among many other things. Our legal system has perpetuated a very disturbing double standard for people with criminal records, even for those with records for just minor, one-time crimes. We simultaneously expect convicted criminals to serve out their sentence for their crimes and then once this has been completed, we expect them to be rehabilitated and productively contribute to their communities. However, the legal system often places insurmountable obstacles in front of them by denying them opportunities because of their criminal record. Unfortunately, what may have been the worst day and decision of someone’s life can eclipse any other meritorious action in their life and haunt them well after they have served out their sentence.
However, on December 20, 2017, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into law a bipartisan package of three bills that modernizes New Jersey’s expungement laws in an effort to help minor criminals reclaim their lives post-conviction.
Here’s a summary of the three bills Governor Christie recently signed into law:
Senate Bill 3306: As stated in the official press release, this bill “Strengthens the original “Ban the Box” legislation by further preventing employers from making any oral, written or online inquiries about the candidate’s criminal record, and from using an online application that requires disclosure of an applicant’s criminal record, including an expungement criminal record. This action will provide people with an opportunity to provide their own personal history during an employment interview rather than being judged on their own criminal record.” 
Senate Bill 3307: As stated in the official press release, this bill “Revises procedures for expunging criminal and other records and information, including shortening certain waiting periods for expungement eligibility and increasing the number of convictions that may be expunged. These include:
- Allows a petitioner to expunge up to four instead of three, offenses or multiple offenses that occurred within a short timeframe, if the petitioner has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent offense;
- Reduces the expungement eligibility waiting period from 10 years to six years, following the latest of any conviction, payment of fine, and completion of probation, parole, or prison sentence;
- Further reduces the expungement eligibility waiting period if satisfaction of a fine or restitution is the petitioner’s only remaining barrier and the court finds that the expungement is in the public’s interest; and
- Aligns expungement and sentencing statutes, allowing expungement for possession of marijuana with the intent to sell up to one ounce, which is the threshold for a fourth-degree crime.
Senate Bill 3308: As stated in the official press release, this bill “Allows young adults to expunge their juvenile records two years sooner than current law permits, decreasing the waiting period from five to three years to expunge an entire juvenile record, and maintaining all other requirements and provisions.”
Despite the passage of these more lenient expungement laws, applying for and successfully receiving an expungement can be an extremely challenging process. While an individual unrepresented by an attorney can file his or her own petition for expungement—the process is complex, legally technical, and demanding, As a layperson, even if you think you are correctly dotting all the “i”s and crossing all the “t”s in your petition, you could be unknowingly making fatal mistakes that could ultimately result in the delay or denial of your expungement. There is simply too much at stake to approach the expungement petition process without experienced legal help.
At the Law Office of Eric M. Mark in Jersey City, NJ and Newark, NJ, our experienced criminal defense attorneys have successfully obtained expungements for clients. While we cannot promise that your criminal record will be expunged, we can promise to help guide you through this complex legal process and advocate tirelessly on your behalf to the petition the court for your expungement.
To schedule your free consultation with an experienced expungement and criminal defense lawyer in Newark, NJ or Jersey City, NJ, contact us online at the Law Office of Eric M. Mark or call (973) 453-2009.