A new expungement law will take effect Monday, and many in the state were expected to take advantage of it. The law would clear an individual’s criminal record of certain nonviolent offenses.
A criminal record or arrest is a major hindrance for people as it hampers their ability to find new employment, seek higher education, or find new housing. Getting the record expunged can prove beneficial.
According to Akil Roper, chief counsel for reentry for the nonprofit Legal Services of New Jersey, a flood of inquiries about the law is expected. He said that offenders who have successfully completed drug court, or court-ordered rehabilitation are expected to benefit the most from the new law.
“I think that the atmosphere has changed a bit in New Jersey, and we are taking a view now that individuals who suffer from drug addiction, and as a result were subject to the criminal justice system, they should not be incarcerated,” he said. “Or, if they are incarcerated, they should have paths available to them to expunge their records and re-enter society during their rehabilitation.”
Moreover, anyone convicted of a serious, indictable crime, and up to two less-serious, disorderly persons convictions, would be eligible to have those criminal records expunged. Before the law, anyone having an indictable conviction was prevented from having the disorderly persons convictions expunged off their record.
The new law would also allow expungement of arrest records in cases that were dismissed without a finding of guilt. According to Roper, this is important as an arrest alone should not create a substantial barrier for an employment opportunity or a housing opportunity.
A special online program has been created by the Legal Services of New Jersey called “Clearing Your Record Online.” The program aims to provide a step-by-step toolkit in order to make it easier for everyone to navigate through the new expungement law.