If you have been convicted in the past for a marijuana-related offense, expunging your record just got a lot easier. On December 18, 2019, Governor Phil Murphy signed Senate Bill S-4154 into law which modified the severity of the offenses for certain marijuana and hashish related violations making the expungement of your record more convenient. Offenses like the unlawful distribution of or possession of less than five pounds of marijuana or less than one pound of hashish or the distribution or possession of marijuana on or within 1,000 feet of any school property or on or within 500 feet of a public housing facility, park, or building are now considered disorderly persons offenses instead of crimes for purposes of determining your eligibility for expungement. Now, these offenses only count towards the cap on convictions for disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses.
Importantly, the new law prohibits certain marijuana and hashish related offenses from counting towards the numerical cap that would limit your ability to request an expungement. These include obtaining or possessing a small amount of marijuana or hashish or being under the influence of marijuana or hashish or possessing drug paraphernalia used with marijuana or hashish.
The legislation also created an additional category of expungement, as well instituting a new, court-initiated sealing of records upon sentencing. This will serve as a quicker method to clear a person's record. For instance, anyone, who prior to the effective date of the act, was charged with, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent for certain marijuana or hashish crimes or offenses, there would no longer be a waiting period imposed before an application for expungement could be filed. However, you still must still first pay any court-ordered financial assessment, satisfactorily complete probation or parole, been released from incarceration, or been discharged from legal custody or supervision at the time you apply.
If you are, on or after the effective date, charged, convicted, or adjudicated for any number of such marijuana or hashish crimes or offenses after December 18, 2019, other than a larger amount distribution crime, the court could order, on its own initiative, the sealing of all records through an "order of nondisclosure". Such an order will be issued immediately upon the disposition of the associated charges and would cover relevant court, probation, and law enforcement records.
If you are concerned about having a criminal record as a result of a prior conviction of a marijuana-related offense, now would be a great time to contact one of the lawyers at Lavery, Selvaggi, Abromitis and Cohen to discuss how this new law might help you expunge your record.