Being charged with or convicted of a crime can have a tremendous impact on one’s life. Not only must the person pay fines and possibly serve jail time but he/she is also left with a criminal record of the arrest and conviction. These records are usually public information that prospective employers, landlords, insurance companies and other officials have access to. Often, people are denied job opportunities and loans based off of their criminal record.
The good news is that in some instances, the records of the arrest and conviction can be expunged. An expungement is the extraction and isolation of an offense that a person was charged with or convicted of in the State of New Jersey (For cases in New York, see our record sealing page). Once expunged these records are no longer discoverable by potential employers or landlords.
Getting an expungement is not an easy process and not all crimes and arrests can be expunged. What’s more, the applicant must meet certain requirements and allow for the appropriate waiting periods to pass (see below) before being deemed eligible. It is a good idea to discuss a potential case with an attorney and ask if they can help with this complex process.
Am I Eligible for an Expungement?
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-7, a person who has committed only one (or no) indictable offense during the course of his entire lifetime will be eligible for an expungement. In other words, someone who was convicted of two or more indictable offenses cannot seek an expungement except under very specific conditions (see below). Nevertheless, a person will not be disqualified if he/she has four or fewer disorderly persons offenses on their record.
Someone who is eligible for an expungement must also make sure that the offense is one that can be expunged. The following crimes are NOT expungeable:
NJ Offenses Not Eligible for Expungement
|Aggravated Criminal Sexual Conduct||Kidnapping|
|Aggravated Sexual Assault||Luring or Enticing|
|Death by Auto||Rape|
|Endangering the Welfare of a Child||Treason|
|False Imprisonment||Attempting to Commit Any of the Crimes Listed Here|
|False Swearing||Aiding, Assisting, or Concealing People Accused of the Crimes Listed Here|
Although this looks like an extremely long list, it is crucial to note that simple drug possession, shoplifting, weapons violations, and even burglary are not on the list. This means that each of those offenses (and quite a few more) can be expunged.
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How Long Do I Have to Wait Before I Can Have My Criminal Record Expunged?
Except for arrest records that result in a dismissal (which can be expunged immediately) all other offenses and convictions require a waiting period before they can be expunged. Beginning Oct. 1, 2018, New Jersey will put into effect new rules regarding the wait time and other requirements for expungement. Below is a table showing the new requirements and waiting periods necessary before a person can be deemed eligible for an expungement. Remember that anyone with more than one indictable conviction is not eligible for an expungement except in specific circumstances (see below).
|Offense/Conviction to be Expunged||Prerequisite Before Waiting Period||Waiting Period |
(as of Oct. 1, 2018)
|Arrests||Must result in dismissal||None|
|Pre-Trial Intervention||Must complete program||6 months|
|Conditional Discharges related to Drug Offenses||Must complete program||6 months|
|Any Drug Possession Case and Certain Distribution Offenses Between 18 and 21 Years Old||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines||1 year|
|Municipal Ordinances||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines. There is no limit to how many can be expunged.||2 years|
|Disorderly Persons (DP) Offenses||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines (not allowed more than 4 DPs)||5 years|
|Indictable Conviction||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines (cannot have more than 3 DP convictions)||6 years|
|More than one Indictable Conviction||All felony convictions must either be part of a single judgement conviction OR were interdependent/closely related in circumstances and committed as part of a sequence of events in a short period of time.||6 years|
|Juvenile Offenses||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines (cannot have been adjudged a juvenile delinquent or been convicted of an adult crime||3 years|
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Can I Get an Expungement if I Have Already Completed a Pre-Trial Intervention Program?
Starting Oct. 1, 2018, New Jersey will allow expungements of felony or disorderly persons convictions for those who have already completed a Pre-Trial Intervention Program (PTI). Previously, having entered a PTI program made one ineligible to expunge any other convictions unrelated to the PTI charge. This barrier has now been lifted.
How Do I Get My Offense Expunged?
Once it is determined that a person is eligible for an expungement and that the offense can be expunged, an attorney can help make it happen. It is highly recommended that anyone seeking an expungement hire an attorney to help with all of the administrative red tape and any court appearances that may be required in order to get the record expunged.
Doing it alone can result in untimely or improperly filed documentation. This could ruin the chances of getting the right results. Before a person can file for an expungement, there are a few initial requirements that he/she must meet.
N.J.S.A. 2C:52-7 requires an applicant to fulfill any obligations or mandates related to the offense. For instance, he/she is required to wait a specific period of time after the date of conviction (see the chart above), release from prison, payment of a fine, or satisfactory completion of probation or parole (whichever is later) before applying for an expungement of that offense.
After waiting the requisite wait time, the person must fill out a petition for expungement, order for a hearing, expungement order, and proof of notice. All of that must be mailed along with a filing fee to the applicable court. Remember, an expungement can be exactly what a person needs to get their life in order. That’s why it is so important that one get an attorney to ensure the process is done correctly.
Even if a person is fully capable of filling out the forms, it is still extremely important to hire an attorney to maximize the chances of success. Remember: Any documentation that is left out or filed improperly can lead to delays or result in a denial. An attorney with experience applying for expungements will be able to assess eligibility and ensure all forms and other requirements are in order.
Can Arrest Records Be Sealed in NJ?
Arrests that do not result in a conviction can be expunged immediately upon being cleared of the charges. the record should seal automatically. If the record does result in a conviction, then the record of the arrest, then any successfully sealing of the conviction will also include the record of the arrest. Read more
Who Should I Contact?
If you or a loved one wants to have their criminal record expunged, contact the attorneys of the Rosenblum Law Firm today. Our skilled criminal defense attorneys have helped many people in similar situations. They will defend your constitutional rights and fight to have your criminal record expunged. E-mail or call us today at 888-815-3649.
What Happens to Past Marijuana Convictions If and When NJ Legalizes?
On March 12, 2019, Gov. Phil Murphy announced he has reached a deal with the state Senate and Assembly for a bill to legalize marijuana. If it becomes law, New Jersey will allow individuals to expunge most marijuana-related convictions immediately. A petition would still have to be filed but the fee will be waived and many eligibility requirements relaxed. In addition, the bill is expected to include a “virtual expungement” that would ban marijuana convictions from counting against a person for purposes of housing, professional licensing, and education.
Frequently Asked Questions
The process takes an average of six to eight months, depending on several factors, including the offense(s) in question, how old the case is, and whether the prosecutor objects.
When it comes to criminal convictions (felonies and/or disorderly persons offenses) New Jersey only allows a person to receive an expungement once. A person who has already been granted an expungement will not be able to expunge future convictions for such offenses. However, a person can still request expungements of convictions for municipal ordinances (e.g. trespassing, posting illegal advertisements, etc.). Furthermore, a person can also expunge arrest records and records related to crimes for which a person was not convicted.
Yes. The arrest and PTI completion will both show up on background checks if not expunged. Both can be expunged six months after completing the program.
Getting a juvenile record expunged in New Jersey is similar to the process for expunging adult criminal convictions. The waiting time for a juvenile expungement is shorter—just three years after completing sentencing. However, the person cannot have been adjudicated a delinquent or have been convicted of an adult crime. Find out more about expunging juvenile records in New Jersey.
Not in most cases. If a hearing is required for the case, an attorney can appear on the your behalf. In rare cases, the judge may specifically request the presence of the petitioner. If that is not possible, an attorney can file a motion to request the appearance be excused.
By law, a person who has had their record expunged can legally deny the conviction or arrest ever existed. The records will not be released to the general public.
An expunged record is not erased. Anyone who receives an expungement but is later charged with another crime could have their record opened by the judge and/or prosecutors, depending on the circumstances. In addition, immigration agencies and military bodies will still have access to expunged records.
Anyone seeking employment with a court, law enforcement, or corrections agency must disclose any convictions, even if they have been expunged. The same is true for those who wish to enlist in the military.
There are four main reasons why an expungement might be denied:
- Inaccuracy in the court records and/or in the expungement petition.
- Petitioner didn’t follow all of the correct procedures.
- The court concludes that granting an expungement would not be in the interest of society (only applies to certain convictions including sex offenses).
- The petitioner or the offense is otherwise not eligible for expungement.
A person with multiple arrests and/or convictions can still be eligible for an expungement. However, in most cases, those with more than one indictable offense (felony) conviction are not eligible. Likewise, those who have already been granted an expungement are no longer eligible.
Yes, expunged records can still be accessed and used by courts and prosecutors. The records can still be used to determine bail, eligibility for supervisory treatment or diversion, and even sentencing.
In most cases, a person whose criminal conviction has been expunged can be entitled to a pistol permit. However, federal law bans those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence from owning a firearm for life and an expungement in New Jersey does not lift this prohibition.
An expungement in not required as NJ restores voting rights automatically once a person completes his/her sentence.
Yes. If all other criteria are met, then a shoplifting conviction can almost certainly be expunged. Read more about shoplifting expungements.
There are many ways a foreign national living in New Jersey can benefit from an expungement of his/her criminal record. However, it is important to remember that even expunged records must be disclosed when applying for a visa, green card, or citizenship. Read more about expungements for immigrants.