What is Expungement?
Expungements are 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” (2C:52-1).
Expunged records “include complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, ‘rap sheets’ and judicial docket records.”
Having your criminal record expunged means in most cases you are legally allowed to not disclose your arrest or conviction when applying for a job or housing. An employer, company, or educational institution conducting an inspection of your public records or a background check will not uncover your criminal record.
One caveat to this rule is applying for jobs in public office or ones that require a high level of security, such as law enforcement or positions working in national security. In those cases, you will likely still be required to disclose your expunged record, and a failure to do so could result in denial of the position or clearance. Disclosing your expunged record does not mean you will automatically be ineligible for the respective position because of your record.
Expungement vs. Records Sealed
“Records sealed” means your criminal record will not be available to the public but is still accessible to those in the criminal justice system. If you are arrested again, state officials will know your record, and it will likely be considered a prior conviction.
Sealing records is a common procedure for those with criminal records as juveniles who are being given a clean slate entering adulthood at 18 years old. In those cases, potential employers, creditors, and others conducting background checks will not learn of their history, but the documents are still accessible through a court order.
Factors Affecting Eligibility
There are a number of factors impacting whether a criminal record may be expunged. In most cases, the following factors are considered:
- seriousness of the crime
- moral standing since arrest or conviction
- number of convictions
In New Jersey, a new law went into effect Oct. 1, 2018 that allows more people to become eligible for expungement. The waiting period was reduced from 10 years to six, but still only one indictable conviction or episode can be erased. You can now have four disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions expunged, as opposed to three. Other changes include:
- allowing courts to expand the definition of a crime “episode.”
- removing the disqualifier if someone had an indictable charge dismissed because of their participation in pre-trial intervention (PTI)
- loosening restrictions on expungement of marijuana charges
Some crimes are unable to be expunged, such as:
- driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- criminal homicide
- human trafficking
- sexual assault
Determining your eligibility for expungement through examining each applicable factor can be a complex process, but an experienced expungement attorney can help you navigate the process.
What is the Process?
The expungement process is something that can be completed on your own, but it is always helpful to have an expert expungement attorney supporting you during the process.
The State of New Jersey recommends collecting the following information to prepare for the expungement process:
- “The date of your arrest as an adult or when you were taken into custody as a juvenile.
- The statute(s) and the offense(s) for which you were arrested, taken into custody as a juvenile, convicted or adjudicated delinquent.
- The original indictment, accusation, summons, docket number, warrant number or complaint number. Include all, if more than one.
- The date of the disposition, which could be the date of the conviction or adjudication of delinquency, date of not guilty verdict or date of dismissal.
- The specific punishment or other disposition.”
Most of the time, expungement proceedings are relatively straightforward. Some more complex cases require contested litigation and court appearances.
New Jersey does not have automatic “expungements.” Even if a criminal charge is dismissed, there is still a record of arrest that will remain on your record unless you petition for expungement.
New Jersey diversionary programs (“PTI”, “Conditional Discharge” and “Conditional Dismissal”), which dismiss charges after the expiration of a predetermined period of time, still leave a recorded history on your criminal record.
The record of your arrest, conviction and/or entry into a diversionary program can be removed from your record. Most other criminal and offense convictions are eligible for expungement after a statutory waiting period.
While each case is unique, the expungement process usually takes several months.
Hire an Experienced Expungement Attorney
Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates routinely handles expungements throughout New Jersey. If your expungement matter is complex or you simply do not feel comfortable preparing and filing your petition on your own, Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates can handle your expungement matter from start to finish.
If you have any questions about what is on your criminal record, you can obtain a copy on your own through the New Jersey State Police. You can visit the New Jersey State Police website to get directions on how to get a copy of your New Jersey Certified Criminal History.
Depending on the content of what is being expunged, there are certain expungement waiting periods. For questions about eligibility, waiting periods or anything else relating to expungements, please contact the attorneys at Daniel M. Rosenberg & Associates through our website or call (609) 216-7400 for a free consultation.