New expungement law could help thousands clear their records

A new law in New Jersey has significantly expanded the eligibility requirements for expungement.

A new law recently went into effect in New Jersey that could help thousands of people who have been convicted of a non-violent crime, according to MyCentralJersey.com. The new law opens a pathway to expungement for many New Jerseyans who have a criminal record, particularly for drug crimes. A criminal record presents numerous obstacles to those who have completed their sentence and it could impact one's ability to find employment and housing. Expungement, therefore, gives people renewed options for moving on with their lives following a conviction.

New expungement law

The new law significantly broadens the number of people who are eligible to have their criminal records expunged in New Jersey. The biggest change in the law applies to drug offenders. The majority of people who have finished a drug court or court-ordered rehabilitation program can now immediately apply to have their criminal records expunged.

The change also affects people with a disorderly person offense on their records. Now, people who have been convicted of an indictable offense and who also have up to two disorderly person convictions are eligible to have those offenses expunged.

Finally, the new expungement law could prove to be of significant help to those who have been arrested but never convicted of a crime. Arrests, even if they do not lead to a conviction, can currently appear on a person's record. That arrest record can hamper employment opportunities, which is why the new law allows those who have an arrest but no conviction of guilt to apply to have the record of that arrest expunged.

Why the new law matters

These changes are a big deal for those who are now eligible to apply for expungement. As Newsworks reports, there is a growing realization that incarceration alone is not an effective way of dealing with drug addiction. The new expungement laws give an incentive for those who have been convicted of a drug crime to complete their rehabilitation. Likewise, no matter the offense, a criminal record can sometimes leave people feeling like they are serving a lifelong sentence even after they have completed their court-ordered sentence. Allowing more people to expunge their records is a recognition that people who have paid their debt to society should not be unfairly held back from rebuilding their lives afterwards.

Getting legal help

While the new law means significantly more people will be eligible to have their records expunged, it is important to realize that such expungement is not automatic. Anybody who may be eligible for expunging their records should contact a criminal defense attorney. The expungement process can be complex and an experienced attorney can help eligible applicants ensure their own application for expungement has the best chance of succeeding.