As of January 18, 2022, people convicted of drug charges in New Jersey can have those charges expunged from their record in more ways than previously available. The purpose of the newly passed laws is to decriminalize addiction.
People found guilty of possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia will be considered a disorderly person offense if the drug paraphernalia is a needle or hypodermic syringe. Furthermore, the law makes it legal to process a needle or hypodermic syringe for personal use.
In the past, people with a non-expugnable conviction on their records could not go through drug court and have the charges expunged. In some cases, people convicted of endangering a child may now have their charges deleted. To be eligible, the person must only have one non-expugnable offense on their record. They may not have attended drug court in the last 10 years and have no criminal convictions or pending charges. The current charges must not involve abuse or neglect of a child and be non-violent in nature.
Reasons to decriminalize addiction
Advocates for decriminalizing addiction say that legalizing drugs allows individuals with a drug problem to be seen as patients and get the help they need to overcome their addiction. Drug distribution could be regulated, and funds gained used to educate young children about the dangers of taking drugs and to help addicts who would no longer have to pay for a criminal defense. Furthermore, addicts would have enhanced self-esteem and be encouraged to get jobs.
Why drugs should not be decriminalized
People who want to keep drugs illegal argue that decriminalizing them will lower their costs. Therefore, more people will try them, and some will become addicted. They also claim that using drugs is not a victimless crime and fear that more children will be neglected and abused.
Two New Jersey laws passed in 2022 allow some drug offenses to be expunged from people’s records. Still, the drug debate about decriminalizing drugs rages on.