Since July, New Jersey courts have expunged at least 362,000 low-level cannabis-related criminal records and there are an estimated 125,000 to 150,000 similar cases that could be automatically expunged under the state’s legalization law, NJ.com reports. Individuals with convictions that have not been automatically cleared can file a motion for review with the courts.
The eligible charges include cannabis possession and sales of less than one ounce, possession of drug paraphernalia, being under the influence of cannabis, failing to turn over cannabis, or possession while in a vehicle.
Michael Hoffman, a defense attorney, told NJ.com that the charges expunged under the legalization law do not include offenses outside of the state Supreme Court order, which laid out a process for expunging records and eligible charges; so, cannabis charges that occurred alongside traffic violations or other crimes will remain on records for now.
Hoffman added that the system leaves many in the dark about whether their cases were included in the process. He described the procedure to obtain a certificate confirming expungements as “convoluted.”
“In a COVID world, they created a brand-new process that requires you to appear in person and present photo identification. That’s just to determine if you were subject to and got the benefit of automatic expungement.”—Hoffman to NJ.com
Chirali Patel, an attorney with Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, estimated that there “should be upwards of millions of cases” affected by the reforms.
“Decriminalization and legalization are trying to work hand-in-hand,” Patel said in the report. “Of course, this is just one step. Dealing with the collateral damage of having had a record— it still prevented them from so much. They’re finally getting to be getting to the starting line.”
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