Atlantic County man wins expungement appeal on drug distribution charge
An Atlantic County man recently won an appeal before the New Jersey Supreme Court to have a drug distribution charge expunged under the New Jersey expungement statute. In 2010 the legislature amended the expungement statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a), to broaden opportunities for expungement. Under the revised expungement law, a person may apply for expungement five years after completing the sentence, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a)(2). The purpose of the expungement law is to afford a second chance to a one-time offender convicted of certain criminal offenses who have led law-abiding lives since the conviction. Millions of adults nationwide have criminal records that affect their re-entry into society years after their sentence is complete. Criminal records can present barriers to employment, licensing and housing, among other things.
To promote employability, the legislature amended the statute in 2010 to reduce the waiting period for certain cases to five years if expungement is in the “public interest”. The amendment also broadened the law to include any third or fourth-degree CDS convictions, including drug distribution offenses. In deciding whether expungement is in the “public interest”, courts consider the nature of the offense and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction.
In the recent case, the petitioner was arrested on June 22, 2000 and charged with three counts of distribution of ecstasy. Defendant pled guilty on January 16, 2001 to one-count of third-degree distribution of CDS. As part of the plea agreement, the remaining charges in the indictment were dismissed, the sentence was 45 days in county jail and probation. After 18 months, Defendant’s probation was terminated. He successfully completed all the conditions of probation on September 13, 2002. Defendant filed a petition to expunge his conviction.
The New Jersey Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s denial of the expungement petition. The Court found that Petitioner led an exemplary and law-abiding life after his conviction and remanded the case to the lower court to reevaluate Petitioner’s character and conduct with a view toward granting the expungement.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Law Offices of John W. Tumelty if you would like to discuss an expungement matter.
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