When it comes to putting the past behind and starting anew, the process of expungement is vital. In essence, expungement is the legal way to “erase” certain criminal records so they don’t show up in most background checks. However, the rules surrounding what can and cannot be expunged, especially in New Jersey, can be intricate. Let’s explore these rules and see how the Garden State handles expungements.
Before diving into specifics, it’s crucial to understand what expungement means. Expungement doesn’t delete your criminal record completely; instead, it isolates the record, making it inaccessible to the general public. While certain law enforcement agencies can still view these records, your average employer, landlord, or educational institution cannot.
What Can Be Expunged in New Jersey?
In New Jersey, the expungement process allows individuals to have certain criminal records cleared or sealed, making them inaccessible in many situations, such as background checks for employment or housing. However, not all offenses or records are eligible for expungement.
Here’s an overview of what can be expunged in New Jersey:
Indictable Offenses (Felonies)
- Most indictable offenses can be expunged, provided the individual has not been convicted of more than one indictable offense.
- Certain offenses, like criminal homicide (except death by auto), kidnapping, human trafficking, terrorism, and most sexual offenses, cannot be expunged.
- A waiting period, which can range from 5 to 10 years depending on the circumstances, is required from the date of conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation, or release from jail, whichever is later.
Disorderly Persons Offenses and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses
- These are non-indictable offenses (similar to misdemeanors in other jurisdictions).
- A person can expunge multiple disorderly persons convictions, but certain conditions apply.
- A 5-year waiting period is generally required, although this can be reduced in some circumstances.
Municipal Ordinance Violations
- Violations of municipal ordinances can be expunged.
- A 2-year waiting period from the date of conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation, or release from jail is necessary.
- Juvenile adjudications (similar to adult convictions) can often be expunged.
- The waiting period and conditions for expungement will depend on the nature of the offense and whether the individual has had subsequent legal issues.
Young Drug Offender Records
- Individuals convicted for drug possession or use and who were under 21 at the time of the offense might be eligible for expungement after a waiting period of 1 year.
Arrests Not Resulting in Convictions
- If an individual was arrested but not convicted (e.g., the charges were dismissed, the person was acquitted, or the case was discharged without a conviction), the record of the arrest can be expunged. Typically, there’s no waiting period in these cases.
Completed Drug Court Program
- Participants who successfully complete a Drug Court program may be eligible for expungement of their records, even if they otherwise wouldn’t qualify.
Expungement laws and procedures can be intricate, and they might change. It’s advisable to consult with a legal professional or familiarize oneself with the New Jersey statutes to determine eligibility and the precise process for expungement.
What Can’t Be Expunged in New Jersey?
While New Jersey offers opportunities for many individuals to clear their records, certain crimes are exempt from expungement:
- Certain Indictable Offenses (Felonies):
- Criminal Homicide: (Except death by auto, also known as vehicular homicide)
- Luring or Enticing
- Human Trafficking
- Aggravated Sexual Assault
- Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact (if the victim is a minor, and the offender is not a parent of the victim)
- Criminal Restraint (if the victim is a minor and the offender is not a parent of the victim)
- Arson and Related Offenses
- Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct
- Producing or possessing chemical weapons, biological agents, or nuclear or radiological devices
- Most Sexual Offenses, especially when the victim is a minor.
- Conspiracies or Attempts to commit such crimes as mentioned above.
- Motor Vehicle Violations: Convictions for motor vehicle violations, including DWI/DUI offenses, are not eligible for expungement under the New Jersey expungement statutes.
- Subsequent Convictions: If an individual has been convicted of a subsequent crime, either before or after the conviction they are looking to expunge, they may not be eligible for expungement.
- Multiple Indictable Convictions: An individual with multiple indictable convictions (whether in New Jersey or any other jurisdiction) typically cannot have any of their convictions expunged.
- Records of Civil Commitments: Records related to civil commitments on grounds of insanity or other mental disorders can’t be expunged.
- Records in Justifiable Self-defense: While these are not criminal convictions, records where the court found the defendant used justifiable self-defense can’t be expunged. However, these records generally don’t carry the same stigma as a conviction.
The Process of Expungement
- Eligibility Check: Before filing a petition, ensure you’re eligible. The waiting periods mentioned are minimums, and other factors can influence eligibility.
- Petition for Expungement: This is filed in the Superior Court. It must list all relevant details of your offense(s), including date, nature, arrest agency, etc.
- Hearing: If your petition is in order, the court sets a hearing date. If no objection arises, and the judge believes expungement is in the interest of justice, they’ll grant it.
- Order of Expungement: Once approved, this order is sent to all agencies that have records of your offenses, ensuring they seal the records from public view.
Why Seek Legal Counsel?
Expungement laws in New Jersey are intricate. While it’s possible to navigate this process independently, having expert legal advice can mean the difference between success and denial. At Bramnick Law, we understand the nuances of New Jersey’s expungement process and can guide you every step of the way, ensuring you get the fresh start you deserve.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Expungement Lawyer at Bramnick Law for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
A past mistake shouldn’t define your future. Expungement offers a pathway to erase or hide those past errors, paving the way for personal and professional growth. If you or a loved one is looking to understand more about the expungement process in New Jersey, reach out to the experts at Bramnick Law. We’re here to help you move forward.