Early pathway" refers to the court's discretion to expunge an indictable offense before the statutory 10-year time requirement. "Early pathway" provides an exception to the 10-year requirement and grants a petitioner two (2) options to expunge his or her conviction in less than 10 years.
What are the qualification requirements of an Early Pathway expungement?
New Jersey law permits expungement before the 10-year waiting requirement if: N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2a(2); ;  less than TEN (10) years has expired from the satisfaction of a fine, but the 10-year time requirement is otherwise satisfied, and the court finds that the person substantially complied with any payment plan ordered pursuant to N.J.S.2C:46-1 et seq., or could not do so due to compelling circumstances affecting his ability to satisfy the fine; or at least FIVE (5) years has expired from the date of his conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, whichever is later; the person has not been convicted of a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense since the time of the conviction; and the court finds in its discretion that expungement is in the PUBLIC INTEREST giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the applicant's character and conduct since conviction. See In re Ronald C. Kollman, Jr., Petition for Expungement (A-126-10)
What does this mean?
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2a(2), you can expunge your conviction in FIVE (5) years, if you can prove it is in the public interest. Before the recent amendment, the New Jersey Criminal Code required applicants to wait ten (10) years before petitioning the court to expunge their conviction for an indictable offense.
What are the requirements I have to meet in order to apply earlier than ten (10) years?
You can apply sooner than ten (10) years if: you have not had any new convictions since your original offense; at least five years have passed since satisfaction of all sentence obligations (e.g., parole, probation, fines); and the court finds that granting your petition is in the public interest. (The court must consider the nature of your offense and your character and conduct since conviction) While the first two requirements are clear, courts may use their discretion in determining the third. The court will also consider the third prong if you are expunging a third or fourth degree drug sale or distribution conviction.
If you have an "early pathway" case, a prosecutor is likely to object. If a prosecutor or government agency objects to your petition for expungement, you will have to attend an in-court hearing. A court may consider any facts or evidence surrounding the circumstances of the arrest to determine your "character and conduct since the conviction." See In re Lobasso, 423 N.J. Super. 475 (App. Div. 2012); . See also State v. Merendino, 293 NJ Super. 444 (App.Div. 1996) (Use of extraneous facts related to arrest to bar expungement)
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