On January 19, 2016, Governor Chris Christie, who is currently running 6th in the 2016 Republican Presidential primary campaign with 3.6% of the support as of January 25, 2016, signed into law A206, which was introduced in 2014. A206 is an update to New Jersey's expungement law. The bill cuts in half the amount of time you have to wait before you file to expunge your record as well as a few other requirements related to the expungement process as a whole. Though 14 legislators did not vote, there was only one no vote and that came from Assemblyman Erik Peterson.
In New Jersey, an expungement operates more like a sealing, in that the records aren't destroyed but "extracted and isolated" and put in the control of a person in that agency designated to maintain those records. Certain agencies are still allowed to use those records in limited instances, but they will have to respond that there are no records in their possession if they are asked by a third-party about a case that was expunged.
The new bill makes a few changes, three of which are very important. First, it will allow people who have made it through drug court programs and any other special probation to have their records expunged automatically. Second, those with qualifying criminal convictions on their record can apply to have them expunged in five years rather than ten. Third, and finally, for those with qualifying disorderly persons offenses, they will be able to apply in three years rather than five to expunge their records.
Supporters believe these changes will go a long way in improving New Jersey's job market as well as opportunities for the individuals who are now able to find better jobs. Assemblyman Jerry Green, one of the main sponsors, stated that "It gives people who currently have little chance of finding legal employment the opportunity to leave past mistakes behind them, find a job, and be productive." We have repeated ourselves over and over, but it is proven that a good job is the key factor in reducing recidivism, and having a record makes getting a job very difficult.
On the point of recidivism, the provision for allowing expungement of records after successfully completing a drug court program was put in place because New Jersey's drug court graduates (and really, just about any state's drug court graduates) have a far lower recidivism rate than other convicts. Assemblyman John McKeon, another sponsor of the bill, said that "If we want these individuals to continue on the right path, then we have to give them the chance to do better instead of setting up roadblocks."
The law will be effective on April 18, 2016.
Let New Jersey politicians know you appreciate their efforts, regardless of which side of the political spectrum you fall. Get yourself registered to vote. Then, contact your State Legislator, and the Governor. Don't forget to let your federal representatives in the US House of Representatives and the US Senate know what is going on back home.