People make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes have legal consequences. Anyone who has ever been convicted of a crime in New Jersey can tell you how difficult it can be to get hired for a job with a criminal record. In New Jersey, under certain circumstances, people with criminal convictions can file for an expungement in order to have that conviction erased. An expungement removes and isolates all records on file with any court, any detention or correctional facility, law enforcement agency, or juvenile justice agency. If a judge grants an expungement petition, records regarding a person’s apprehension, arrest, detention, trial, conviction in the criminal justice system, disposition of delinquency in the juvenile justice system, or disposition in any related proceedings, are considered not to have occurred. Additionally, all complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, finger prints, photographs, index cards, “rap sheets”, and judicial docket records shall also be expunged. For some people, this means a fresh start.
The requirements necessary to file a successful expungement petition in the superior court are detailed in the New Jersey expungement statutes N.J.S.A 2C:52-1 through N.J.S.A 2C:52-32. You should consult with an attorney in order to discuss your desire to have your records expunged, and he can determine your eligibility to have this done. Though it can be very complicated, expungements are something you technically can do yourself, and I will include a link to a guide/forms at the conclusion of this article for that purpose. While an expungement is not the same thing as a pardon, it would allow you to truthfully answer “no” on employment applications regarding criminal convictions, and even swear under oath in New Jersey that an event never happened, without committing perjury. This does not apply in certain federal circumstances, and you should allow an expungement lawyer to determine how exactly an expungement will work for you. The main benefit to an expungement, is that the vast majority of times, a background check by a prospective employer will show a clean record. It will also count as a clean record for purposes of professional licenses or accreditation, and even allow you to apply for a gun permit. It is important to know however, that an expungement cannot remove records from private reporting agency or consumer credit agencies on the internet. Once something is on the internet, it is almost impossible to remove, and requires a computer skill set which is well outside the practice of criminal defense law in order to address.
While certain offenses are still not eligible for expungement such as Homicide, Kidnapping, Aggravated Sexual Assault, and Robbery (there are others), the statutes governing expungements were revised and relaxed in 2010 when Governor Christie signed amendment A1771 [1R] into law. Now, third and fourth degree indictable drug offenses are eligible for expungement. Additionally, the once firm 10 year waiting period for expungements of indictable offense may be reduced to 5 years if the petitioner has not been convicted of any additional fines and fees have been paid (though this is not an automatic disqualification if it can be proven the applicant made their best effort to do so), and/or it is in the interest of justice (in the best interest of society) to do so. The other major changed reduced the waiting period for expungements for juveniles from five years from the date of completion of a sentence. The waiting period for a juvenile expungement now starts from the date of conviction.
For less serious offenses, the waiting period is 5 years for disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses if you’ve had no more than 3 convictions, and tolls from the date of completion of sentence. The waiting period is 2 years for municipal ordinance violations, starting from the completion of the payment of fines. Arrests resulting in dismissals are immediately eligible for expungement. Pre-rial Intervention is eligible for expungement 6 months after completion of the PTI probationary period. Conditional Discharge has a 6 month waiting period starting after completion of the program as well. Calculating eligibility for expungement can get a bit complicated when there are multiple convictions for offenses that vary in seriousness spanning over a period of years, and requires some thoughtful analysis. As a New Jersey expungement lawyer, I have helped countless clients with this process. Once a petition is completed it is submitted to five different agencies, along with my client’s certification which verifies the facts asserted in the petition. The turn-around time for a petition to be granted or denied depends on how inundated the courts are, and takes anywhere between 90 and 180 days. If there are no issues or objections, a judge will usually sign the petition without requiring a formal hearing in court. If there are questions or there is an objection, then a hearing will be set, and the judge will listen to arguments as to why the expungement should or should not be granted. Once granted, the order of expungement will be served back on all of the various agencies that the original petition was sent to, so they can comply with the order to isolate your records. Once a confirmation letter is received from the state police, you may consider your record expunged.