New Jersey Gov. Christie Signs Expungement Bill into Law

NJ Governor Chris Christie recently affixed his signature to a bill that will make it easier for certain individuals convicted of crimes in New Jersey to seek expungement of their criminal records.

Christie signed the bill into law without providing comment or an official statement. In fact, the bill was just one of many that Christie signed into law on January 19. As a result of Christie signing off on the legislation, the bill will take effect in 90 days. Right around Tax Day this year, anyone convicted of a crime in New Jersey will find it significantly easier to clear their record of a criminal conviction.

Expungement Waiting Periods in New Jersey

A criminal conviction does not have to stick with you for the rest of your life. In New Jersey, many people who were previously convicted of a crime have the option to petition the superior court in the county where they were convicted and apply for an expungement. The superior court has authority to expunge convictions and arrests, which effectively means that the conviction and/or arrest will no longer appear on the person s record. Moreover, if the individual is ever asked whether they have been convicted of a crime, they can answer no because the conviction and arrest did not happen in the eyes of the law.

Under previous NJ law, there was a lengthy waiting period for anyone seeking expungement of a criminal conviction or arrest. For example, a person convicted of a felony-level offense in New Jersey needed to wait a minimum of 10 years before filing an application to expunge the conviction. Now those same individuals will only have to wait five years before petitioning the court to clear their records of the conviction.

The waiting period for expunging a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense has also been reduced from five years to three years. Although misdemeanor-level offenses like simple possession of marijuana and shoplifting might not be considered felonies, a conviction for these kinds of drug offenses and theft offenses can result in a stigma that follows you for a very long time.

Expungement: An Important Step to Reintegrating into Society

Assemblywoman L. Grace Spencer, one of the bill s co-sponsors, highlighted the importance of the new legislation by pointing to the many ways in which a criminal record can rob a person of important rights that most other people take for granted. For example, said Spencer, a person with a criminal record may find it more difficult to secure housing, employment and even loans for school. These extra obstacles faced by formerly incarcerated individuals can make it almost impossible for them to successfully reintegrate back into society.

For additional information about the new expungement waiting periods, check out the New Jersey Law Journal article, Christie OKs Measure Easing Expungement.