Big Hurdles Await Streamlined Marijuana Expungements
The New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee held a meeting on June 4, 2018, to discuss a plan to streamline the marijuana expungements process for marijuana possession convictions throughout the state. The goal, according to the committee, is to create a process that will achieve the “expedited expungement of marijuana offenses in the event of decriminalization or legalization and (will establish) an Expungement Coordinator Program for certain marijuana offenses.” The actual existing legislation is identified as Bill A-3620. The committee appeared to be in universal agreement that anyone previously convicted of marijuana possession should be able to have the convictions expeditiously expunged.
Marijuana Expungements May be Limited
The legislative measure is limited to possession offenses only and, at present, does not cover marijuana distribution. Even if limited only to possession cases, the mechanisms available to achieve this expedited process are severely limited for marijuana expungements. To begin, the numbers alone defy an expedited process. According to the committee, in the last ten years, over 400,000 people were arrested for possession of marijuana. Some 43,000 were charged in 2016 alone. And, if you look back to 1992 – a reasonable time frame to incorporate all those that may seek a marijuana expungements under the new proposal – over one million people would be eligible for expungement.
A Backlog Can Occur with a Large Amount of ‘Expedited” Marijuana Expungements
Compiling the necessary court records would constitute a monumental task. Most governmental data bases dealing with marijuana possession cases have only been digitized within the past ten to fifteen years. And, even if digitized, the records may still reflect other charges that were included with the marijuana charges. Therefore, identifying the records for each eligible individual remains a daunting and time-consuming process. Nonetheless the proposed legislation calls for the creation of an expungement coordinator program at the state level which will train people to assist those seeking to have their record expunged. The goal, of course, will be to use these trained people to assist in moving the process forward. And, although the committee recognized that there is a tremendous amount of work to do before an effective system could be in place, they seem determined to make the process a reality.
But, there is no need to wait. If you feel you may be eligible, the current expungement process remains open and available to all. While it may not be expedited, any expungement filed in the near future will have successfully run its course and the expungement granted long before the proposed expedited process is up and running. So, the prudent plan is to not wait for the crush and make your marijuana expungement application as soon as possible.
Learn more about Marijuana Expungements at Bercik Law