Criminal defense would be impacted by legalizing marijuana

New Jersey is currently considering legalizing weed. In light of this, the state must also decide what it should do about those facing marijuana-related charges. Many lawmakers support the expungement of such low-level convictions. However, the process of achieving this -- which will affect the government, the criminal defense world and people who have been charged with marijuana-related crimes -- could pose major problems for the state.

According to Federal Bureau of Investigation data, the state of New Jersey takes into custody more individuals for marijuana possession and use than nearly any other state. In addition, the number of people being arrested for committing marijuana-related crimes is increasing faster than it is in other states. Between 2015 and 2016, arrests for marijuana crimes increased almost 27 percent, going from more than 28,000 arrests to 35,000 arrests.

The process of expunging a marijuana conviction from an individual's criminal record in the event that New Jersey legalizes marijuana is apparently laborious. It involves more than simply sending the courts a letter. Instead, the individual looking to get his or her record clear must gather information from every state and local agency that might have recorded his or her charges. Then, a petition can be filed for expungement -- a step that costs a minimum of $75.

Until marijuana is legalized in New Jersey -- if this even ends up happening -- possessing or distributing marijuana can lead to consequences such as time behind bars. However, a person facing these types of drug charges has the right to proceed to trial to fight the charges. A strong criminal defense will likely be necessary to achieve the most personally favorable outcome given the circumstances surrounding the defendant's charges.

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