Christie vows to help convicted drug offenders before leaving office
Gov. Chris Christie says he expects to sign into law a package of bills that would provide more opportunities for low-level drug offenders and other former criminals to expunge their records.
The three bills, which Christie negotiated this year with state Sen. Sandra B. Cunningham, D-Hudson, have been approved by Senate and Assembly committees but have not been voted on by either chamber of the Legislature.
During his November “Ask the Governor” show on Tuesday, Christie said Senate President Steve Sweeney and Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto have “assured” him that the bills will be passed during Christie’s lame duck session.
Christie has been vowing to expand expungement opportunities in the state since March after he vetoed bills that he thought compromised public safety.
If enacted, the expanded expungement would be one of several measures Christie has adopted in addressing the state’s drug crisis. Under Christie, the state’s Drug Courts were expanded and made mandatory for first-time nonviolent offenders.
Christie on Tuesday also said he is considering pardoning some non-violent drug offenders before he leaves office.
“I just, in fact, walked home with a binder for the weekend of 18 potential pardons,” Christie told Stockton caller Maryann, who asked the governor about pardoning her son’s two drug convictions, including one stemming from the time she called police after he threatened to take his life.
“He cannot get a job. It’s been 12 years,” she said, explaining that he is studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor.
“He could have been dead on the floor when I got home that night.”
The three Cunningham bills would:
— Prohibit employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s expunged record and bar them from asking about an applicant’s criminal record online. Existing law already prohibits oral and written questions about criminal records.
— Increase the number of convictions that could be expunged after six years and the payment of fines.
— Allow expungement of multiple misdemeanor convictions after five years.
— Allow expungement for convictions of possession of up to an ounce of marijuana, up from 0.89 ounce.
— Reduce the time period, from five to three years, before a juvenile record could be expunged.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was corrected to say that Drug Courts are for nonviolent offenders.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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