Christie signs bills to loosen rules on erasing criminal records

During an appearance Thursday night at Rowan University, former Gov. Chris Christie blasted New Jersey's current Gov. Phil Murphy, claiming Murphy is casting too much blame on him. (AP, file)

During an appearance Thursday night at Rowan University, former Gov. Chris Christie blasted New Jersey's current Gov. Phil Murphy, claiming Murphy is casting too much blame on him. (AP, file)

Three new laws will make it easier for New Jerseyans to wipe clean their criminal records, a move advocates say will help residents with criminal histories better reintegrate into society.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, who worked with legislators to write the bills, signed them into law Wednesday. He said they will give a “second chance” to low-level drug offenders caught up in the national opioid crisis.

Expunging a criminal record allows someone to erase almost any trace of the crime and punishment.

Criminal justice advocates say people who’ve served their sentences often struggle to land a job or find housing because of their criminal backgrounds.

The new rules addressing record expungement come from three different laws.

The first lets people asking to expunge their criminal record get rid of four crimes instead of three, and it reduces the waiting period to expunge a record from 10 to six years after the completion of a sentence.

The second expands New Jersey’s “ban the box” law, which restricts how employers can ask job applicants about any criminal history. The new law prohibits companies from asking about an applicant’s expunged record, and it bars them from making any inquiries online — not just orally or on paper.

The third bill decreases the waiting period to expunge an entire juvenile record from five to three years.

“It gives people an opportunity to get their lives back in order, quicker,” said Democratic state Sen. Sandra Cunningham, who sponsored all three bills.

“These are people who decided a long time ago that they want to be decent, productive citizens,” she said. “They don’t get their record expunged just to go back out and commit another crime.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.