It’s good news for those with criminal records in the Garden State.

Changes to New Jersey’s expungement law have just kicked in, making it quicker and easier to have criminal charges wiped off your record permanently.

According to Akil Roper, the vice president and chief counsel for Legal Services of New Jersey, this is very good news for thousands of Garden State residents.

“Previously before the law was amended you could expunge essentially three convictions. Now that limit is four convictions and one of them can be an indictable conviction," Roper said.

He said the new law also increases the number of offenses that can be expunged within a crime spree.

“What that means is if you have a number of offenses that occurred within a short period of time and are related in circumstance, the court can expunge that entire spree," he said.

Another change in the law decreases the time a person must wait to have a criminal record expunged.

“For indictable convictions it was 10 years, and now that’s been reduced from 10 years to 6 years," Roper said.

So why is this important?

Roper said these changes, signed into law by former Gov. Chris Christie last year, are designed to help people who at one point in their lives committed a minor crime, like possession of a small amount of marijuana, but decades later are still paying for it.

“The record of the criminal justice involvement will still stay on their record and can affect their ability to get housing, affect their ability to get a job or apply to schools,” he said.“These are things that can be held against them.”

He stressed expungement allows someone who's completed rehabilitation to re-enter society and compete on a fair basis with others. And he added expungement is a process that takes some time.

“The first step is to make a general assessment of your eligibility, then get a copy of your records for your expungement application, fill the application out and submit it to the courts," Roper said.

He said having a lawyer assist with this is helpful but it can be expensive, so assistance is available at Legal Services of New Jersey.

Roper also pointed out certain offenses can never be expunged in New Jersey. Those include murder, robbery, aggravated sexual contact, kidnapping, arson and terrorism.

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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