When you have paid the price for your drug conviction, it should not have to follow you around for the rest of your life. A criminal record makes it hard for you to be successful in turning your life around by presenting employment and housing challenges.
There is hope, however, through New Jersey’s new expungement laws. If you qualify, then you can have a clear record quickly so you can leave the past behind and move forward.
What is expungement?
Expungement means eliminating the existence of a conviction so that it is as if you never had one. You will be able to say on applications that you do not have a criminal record. It is different than sealing your record, which entails allowing access only through a court order but not erasing the record. However, if you become involved in crime again, the records can still play a role in legal proceedings.
Who can seek an expungement?
First, your conviction must be in New Jersey for you to apply for expungement in this state. The general minimum time before applying is 10 years, though good behavior may make you eligible in only five. Better yet, if you complete drug court, the expungement will be automatic. If you completed the program before the law went into effect (April 18, 2016), it will not be automatic, but you do not have to wait before applying. For controlled dangerous substances, expungement depends on the drug quantity.
If you also have a disorderly persons conviction, you can receive an expungement in as few as three years. If you have other charges or arrests but not a conviction for those crimes, you can have those removed as well.
How do you get your record cleared?
There are no fees to have your record expunged. However, you may benefit from hiring legal guidance through the process. An experienced criminal defense attorney can tell you if you are eligible and how and where you need to apply based on your situation. Professional assistance may lead to a quicker expungement as well.