New Jersey courts have expunged 362,000 low-level marijuana cases over the summer, clearing a massive amount of criminal records in just two months.
The state Judiciary had estimated some 360,000 cases qualified for automatic expungement following the passage of marijuana legalization, reports NJ.com. That law did away with fines and penalties for possessing and selling small amounts of weed.
The judiciary began vacating and dismissing cases in July, and then expunged them. That’s the final step that ultimately clears a person’s record.
About 125,000 to 150,000 marijuana expungements remain for the courts to complete automatically, said MaryAnn Spoto, a spokeswoman for the Judiciary. People with Cannabis cases not automatically expunged in New Jersey can file a motion for review with the court.
Covered: Possession, Sales of Less Than 1 Oz., Paraphernalia, Under The Influence
Without expungements, people with pot convictions can struggle to get jobs, housing and financial aid for school due to past criminal records.
A New Jewrsey Supreme Court order issued this summer laid out the new, automated process for vacating, dismissing and expunging certain Cannabis offenses. The eligible charges include possession of marijuana and selling less than one ounce.
They also include related crimes like possession of drug paraphernalia and being under the influence. Those charged with failing to turn over marijuana or possessing marijuana while in a vehicle, are also eligible for expungement.
Some New Jersey Charges Aren’t Covered
Michael Hoffman, a defense attorney in Vineland, New Jersey, said the charges expunged do not include those tied to criminal offenses outside of the order. So, if you were charged with a Cannabis offense alongside traffic violations or other crimes? Then, bummer, you’ll have that case kept on the on record for now.
The system leaves many wondering if their cases were actually expunged, according to Hoffman. He called the process to obtain a certificate confirming expungements “convoluted.”
“In a Covid world, they created a brand-new process that requires you to appear in person and present photo identification,” Hoffman said. “That’s just to determine if you were subject to and got the benefit of automatic expungement.”
Free Legal Help Available September 14
420NJEvents is hosting a clinic on Tuesday, Sept. 14 offering free legal help, for those with past Cannabis charges. The event is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Doubletree by Hilton Penn Station Hotel in Newark.
“Why should some people have their lives ruined, while others are getting rich in the industry?”asked Brendon Robinson, co-founder and vice president of 420NJEvents. “This clinic will give people an opportunity to have a life after Cannabis. No longer will low-level Cannabis crimes ruin someone’s life.”
Tuesday’s legal clinic will feature attorneys from Brach Eichler, who can provide expert advice to those seeking conviction relief.