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Expunging drug charges in NJ — More crimes could be wiped off records soon

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In just a few months, it could get easier to get drug records expunged, Gov. Chris Christie suggested Monday night on the latest installment of “Ask The Governor.”

Christie has prioritized reforms targeting New Jersey’s heroin and opioid epidemic in his final year in office, building on earlier work including an expansion of New Jersey’s drug court program, through which low-level offenders can avoid prison.

Caller Valery from New Egypt has benefited from the latter, she told the governor. The former speech therapist for an elementary school told Christie she’d been charged with possession of an opioid, adjudicated through the drug court system. Se soon after received a letter telling her she could no longer work in the school system.

“What can I do?” she asked. “I’ve been in recovery. The charges were years ago. Because I’m in drug court, the conviction was later. I’m wondering: Am I ever going to be able to work in school again?”

Christie said he and state Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham, a Democrat in Jersey City, are meeting to discuss expanding the crimes eligible for expungement — the removal of a arrest and conviction from one’s record. Expunged charges do not show up on background checks.

New Jersey last overhauled its expungement system in 2010, giving judges greater discretion to grant applications and expanding the list of eligible offenses to include third- and fourth-degree drug sale convictions.

Joining former Gov. Jim McGreevey at the Third Annual Prisoner Reentry Conference in Jersey City on Thursday, Christie also discussed the possibility of again expanding the list, to make non-violent drug offenders who’ve gone through the drug court program eligible, according to a report by NJ.com.

Christie didn’t offer more detail Monday on what sorts of crimes might newly become eligible or under what specific circumstances, but he told the caller: “I think you’ll be able to get back to doing the job you’re trained to do.”

Christie said he hoped a change could be put into effect by June.

“Thank goodness you’re in recovery and I’m really happy for you,” he said.

Also from “Ask The Governor” Monday:

• Christie coy on joining presidential opioid task force
• Governor has no position yet on proposed Monmouth power line
• Christie believes Trump administration will bring cop killer to justice
• Christie: ‘Can’t believe Democrats won’t support’ raiding Horizon surplus
• Christie dares NJ sanctuary cities to risk losing federal funds

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