Expungements in New Jersey - General Overview
Learn how to navigate the NJ expungement system after a criminal conviction.
"Sometimes good people find themselves in the criminal justice system - use an EXPUNGEMENT to help you"As we stand here in 2017, finances become ever so important in an extremely competitive job market. We are in a technologically advanced society where people can learn about you and your background with the stroke of a computer key. Depending on the agency that is conducting the criminal background check, whether private or public, a wealth of information about you can be yielded. Having a conviction in New Jersey for a crime, offense or otherwise can possibly jeopardize securing a job if you have been involved with the state criminal justice system. Not only can a conviction affect your ability to secure a livelihood, it may need to be disclosed and can affect college applications, graduate school applications, professional licensing requirements, relationships, court proceedings, military entrance, certain jobs requiring a background clearance, housing and insurance. The law regarding expungements is highly technical and therefore you need an experienced criminal attorney to obtain an expungement.
An expungement is legally defined as "the extraction and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system." N.J.S. 2C:52-1a. Expungements apply to juveniles and adults. Our legislature has recognized the role of an expungement. Life experiences and observation suggest that a multitude of reasons exist why a person has landed in the criminal justice system - marital issues, health problems, mental health issues, drug dependency, financial failure, death of loved ones or simply a product of circumstance. Recognizing these unfortunate yet real problems, New Jersey criminal law states in pertinent part that regarding expungements "the primary objective of providing relief to the reformed offender who has led a life of rectitude and disassociated himself with unlawful activity." N.J.S. 2C:52-32.
ContinuedNot all crimes and offenses are subject to an expungement. For example, motor vehicle offenses for which a person was arrested or convicted for are generally not subject to an expungement. See N.J.S. 2C:52-28. A person seeking an expungement application should know that New Jersey requires certain time passage before one is even eligible to apply. In some cases depending on the facts and circumstances of the individual, it may be a waiting period of ten (10) years, five (5) years, three (3) years, six (6) months or immediately.
Particularly significant are expungements applications that can be filed immediately. The Governor signed a fairly new law to be effective April 18, 2016. See N.J.S. 2C:52-6a et seq. However, many experienced attorneys and persons involved in the state criminal justice system are not aware of it and how it can help their clients. This new law allows for an expungement application to be filed immediately if a person's charges were dismissed or resulted in an acquittal, with certain exceptions. To illustrate, we recently helped an individual in Essex County. We were successfully able to get his indictable charge downgraded to a simple assault. Thereafter, we got the simple assault charge dismissed. I prepared all of the necessary paperwork and provided it to the judge to transfer over for expungement purposes. There was no waiting period and this process helps clients that are looking for immediate filing and an expeditious expungement of same. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has provided a criminal directive and legal form to be utilized in these instances.
The law on expungements, like many laws, can and often does change from moment to moment. Likewise, the judicial interpretations dictate the roadmap in this technical area. Depending on what you were convicted of, the time frame, what your criminal records are before and after and a list of other crucial factors determines if you will be afforded an opportunity for a clean slate. When it comes to your life and your livelihood, you need an experienced attorney who will tend to your best interests. Famous novelist Marcel Proust sums it up - "There is no man ... however wise, who has not at some period in his youth said things, or lived a life, the memory of which is so unpleasant to him that he would gladly expunge it."