If you were arrested or convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony in New Jersey, you may be experiencing numerous obstacles in obtaining employment, renting housing, or getting approved for credit. A criminal record can also affect your ability to get a professional license, to teach, to enter military service, travel internationally, or receive government benefits. You may be able to expunge or clear your record on your path to a fresh start in life.
What is Expungement or Sealing?
An expungement means that your criminal record has been erased from public view, although it has not been destroyed. In New Jersey, there is no legal distinction between sealing your record and expunging it. Both involve a court order prohibiting the public from viewing of your criminal record. After your record has been expunged, it will no longer be accessible to the public or court personnel unless a court order authorizes it. All expunged information is deleted from the state's criminal case management database or CCM, as well as its judgment of conviction database. The New Jersey State Police must contact the FBI to adjust records to reflect the expungement.
The legal effect of your record erasure is that you may legally say under oath that you have never been convicted of a crime. This could apply to court testimony or to any questions asked on an employment, rental or school applications. Many other public license requirements may or may not obligate you to disclose your past conviction or expungement disposition. However, you must disclose your criminal conviction if you are applying for a correctional or law enforcement position, or for a license to practice law. This disclosure does not automatically disqualify you from pursuing these professions, but the agency involved may consider it when determining your qualifications.
Are You Eligible?
Indictable offenses or felonies are eligible for expungement in New Jersey except for certain crimes. These include most sex crimes, murder, manslaughter, arson, certain drug crimes, and crimes against children.
To be eligible for expungement of an indictable offense, certain requirements must be met:
- At least 10 years must have passed since completion of all terms of your sentence.
- You have no charges pending.
- You have no other convictions in New Jersey or any other state.
- You have less than three disorderly or petty disorderly violations.
- You were not previously granted a dismissal of charges through pretrial intervention.
- You have not had a previous conviction expunged.
No motor vehicle offenses, including intoxicated driving convictions, may be expunged.
To expunge misdemeanor convictions, or what New Jersey refers to as municipal ordinance violations, the above requirements apply. However, you need only wait two years after all conditions of your sentence have been completed, including probation, payment of fines and restitution.
You can also petition to expunge one record for which you are adjudicated delinquent, or to expunge your entire juvenile record after five years has passed if you have no other criminal record.
What Do You Need?
When you file an expungement petition, you must demonstrate your eligibility. Required information includes:
- Date of arrest
- Statute and offense under which you were convicted
- Complaint number, indictment number, docket, accusation or summons number
- Date of your conviction, dismissal or not guilty verdict
- Details of your disposition
You may access this information in the Superior Court Criminal Case Management Office in the county court where your conviction occurred.
Consult a New Jersey Criminal Defense Attorney
Determining if you are eligible for expungement and the legal effects of having your record hidden from public view can be explained by a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. Contact a New Jersey attorney today for answers to your expungement questions.