Most of us have some skeletons in our closet we would like to erase.
The good news is that you can erase many of those prior convictions laying in your closet. New Jersey expungement laws allow you to erase your past criminal convictions, but only if you file the application with the court correctly and timely. You need an expungement because you are thinking about being a teacher, a police officer, EMT or working in a hospital, being a warehouse deliveryman and need a CDL, or just trying to get into a good college, but your criminal record is a concern.
What is the Expungement Process?
New Jersey statute NJSA 2C:52 deals with expungements, and allows for you to file for an expungement of certain crimes and offenses. Not everyone is able to obtain an expungement because certain crimes and offenses, and traffic matters, such as DUI within the state cannot be expunged.
You need to follow the process of filing for an expungement. Contact The Mark Law Firm to learn more about how we can help you. When you meet with our team, we will need some documents from you, such as your arrest record, and any documents from the crime you want to expunge. Once we have this information, we will start the process by putting together a complaint and have you sign an affidavit.
The firm will then continue the process by sending the petition for expungement to the Court, and then provide notice to the State Police, Attorney General’s office, County Prosecutor’s office, local Police Agency, and even the victim of the crime. Once all parties are on notice, the court may schedule a hearing if there is any objection to your application. The prosecutor’s office from the County will have an opportunity to comment where it either challenges the expungement or takes no position. If there is no objection, typically the expungement will be approved.
Once the Order is approved by the Court, notice is once again provided to the agencies, and those agencies must remove and isolate your records from the public. More importantly, once your expungment is finalized, you have the legal right to answer any question about your criminal history as “no,” meaning you do not have a criminal history.
Who Qualifies for an Expungement?
The basic answer to this question is: “It depends.” You have to look at the type of record, such as was it an indictable offense or a disorderly person offense, or a violation of an ordinance.
There are some important factors to review to make sure you qualify for an expungement. To start with, if you have a criminal conviction, you may qualify. But certain convictions may never be expunged, such as homicide, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact of a minor, false imprisonment, arson, endangering the welfare of a child, selling child pornography, perjury, false swearing, most drug offenses, and traffic tickets.
Certain crimes can be expunged, however, if you have had prior expungements and/or have prior or subsequent convictions the process becomes much more difficult.
Where Can I File for an Expungement?
Expungements can be filed at different times. The determining factor is when the criminal charge was finally disposed.
For an indictable offense, you must wait a minimum of 10 years from the date of conviction, payment of all fines, completion of probation or release from jail, whichever is longer. This 10 year waiting period can be shortened if you can show you are making payments and there are “exceptional circumstances” for the expungement.
For a person who has 1-3 disorderly persons conviction, you must wait five (5) years to have your record expunged. If you have been convicted of 4 or more disorderly persons offenses, then you cannot expunge your record.
To expunge a municipal ordinance wherein the sentence was less than 90 days or a 200 fine, you must wait two (2) years to expunge your record. You also may not have four (4) or more municipal ordinance violations to qualify.
Arrests without a conviction can be expunged at any time. Many people wrongfully believe that after they have been arrested, and charges are dismissed or dropped, they have no criminal records. In fact, the arrest remains on your criminal rap sheet until removed. If you have an arrest when the charges were dismissed, you may have your arrest expunged at any time.
What Kind of Crimes Can I Expunge?
Most crimes can be expunged, with the exception of homicide, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, aggravated sexual contact of a minor, false imprisonment, arson, endangering the welfare of a child, selling child pornography, perjury, false swearing, most drug offenses, and traffic tickets.
You have been arrested and are facing an indictable offense such as assault, drugs or theft. Because you are facing serious jail time, significant fines, and other losses, the State of New Jersey offers a program called Pre-Trial Intervention, or PTI. PTI is a form of conditional probation however, once you have completed PTI, it’s like your arrest never happened. Therefore, after you successfully complete your PTI, you can apply for an expungement after six (6) months have lapsed. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6 allows for the expungement of certain arrests after the successful completion of a diversionary program.
- DWI: A DWI is a traffic offense, therefore it cannot be expunged.
- Ordinances: You’ve had a prior spat with a neighbor or a tussle with some guy at a bar. You were arrested, and pled guilty to disturbing the peace. Disturbing the Peace is an ordinance violation. Good news, a local ordinance can be expunged pursuant to statute. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4 allows you to expunge a conviction of a local ordinance after a waiting period of 2 years. In order to qualify for an ordinance expungement, you cannot have had a prior or subsequent criminal conviction, nor had two disorderly persons convictions prior to applying for the expungement.
How Long Does an Expungement Take?
Expungements vary in time depending on factors such as degree of the crime, victims, damages caused, when the discharge occurred, and prior and subsequent offenses. IN our experience, however, a typical petty disorderly persons offense takes about 3-6 months to have the order of expungement signed by the Court.
Expungement applications can be tricky and you should hire a qualified and experienced attorney to assist you in cleaning your arrest record. Having an arrest record can hurt your chances of finding employment, and if you don’t act quickly, you may be losing out on jobs you would be qualified for. Contact The Mark Law Firm now, and call us at 908-460-8996.