What You Need to Know About New Jersey Expungements
February 01, 2017
Expunge or Seal your New Jersey Criminal Record
In New Jersey, your criminal records are readily available to the public regardless of whether or not you were actually convicted of a crime. This can make it incredibly difficult to pass background checks for employment, housing, and various licenses . Fortunately, New Jersey laws provide for criminal record expungement in many cases. An expungement would remove and isolate all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement, criminal justice agency or juvenile justice agency. Generally, an expunged offense is considered not to have occurred, and you may legally state that your criminal record is clean once all charges and convictions are expunged. The record may only be used by government agencies in very limited circumstances.
The process of expunging a New Jersey criminal record differs depending on whether you have a conviction for an indictable offense (generally an offense punishable by six months of jail time or more), a disorderly persons offense (generally an offense punishable by less than six months of jail time), or for a violation of a municipal ordinance. Motor vehicle convictions may not be expunged, which includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Individuals who have successfully completed drug court or court-ordered rehabilitation may be eligible to expunge their entire record of arrests and convictions. Furthermore, individuals who were victims of identity theft may also be eligible to expunge or delete certain arrests and convictions from their record.
Expungement of Arrests Not Resulting in Conviction in NJ
A recently passed law in New Jersey provides that when a person has been arrested or held to answer for a crime or any lesser offense and the proceedings against the person were dismissed, the person was acquitted, or the person was discharged without a conviction or finding of guilt, the Superior Court must upon application from the person, order the expungement of all records relating to the arrest or charge at the time of the dismissal, acquittal, or discharge. Under the law, if the proceedings took place in a municipal court, the municipal court must provide the person, upon request, with appropriate documentation to transmit to the Superior Court to request expungement pursuant to procedures developed by the Administrative Office of the Courts. Upon receipt of such documentation, the Superior Court must enter an ex parte order expunging all records and information relating to the person’s arrest or charge.
The law provides that an expungement under section 4 shall not be ordered where the dismissal, acquittal, or discharge resulted from a plea-bargaining agreement which resulted in the conviction of other charges, but this bar does not apply once the conviction resulting from the plea agreement is expunged.
Finally, the law permits a person who did not apply for the expungement of an arrest or charge not resulting in a conviction at the time of dismissal, acquittal or discharge to present, at any time following the court’s disposition, a duly verified petition as provided in N.J.S.A.2C:52-7 to the Superior Court in the county in which the disposition occurred praying that the records of such arrest and proceedings be expunged. The law provides that no fee shall be charged to a person applying for an expungement of an arrest or charge not resulting in a conviction where a petition is filed after the court’s disposition.
Expunging an Indictable Offense
A person with an expungable indictable offense on their record may expunge the record of that conviction so long as he or she has not been convicted of more than two disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey or any other state. A petition for each of these offenses may be separately filed in the county in which the conviction was entered. In most cases, you must wait at least 10 years from the date of the most recent conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation or parole, or release from jail—whichever is later—before applying. If you have been convicted of two or more indictable offenses, whether in New Jersey or any other state, you may not expunge your criminal conviction record.
New Jersey provides the early expungement of indictable offenses in special situations, titled “public interest” expungements. These are cases where a person’s criminal record is cleared because it is in the public’s interest to do so. Those that fall into this category may apply sooner than 10 years if the following apply:
- You have not had any new conviction since your original offense;
- At least five years (5) have passed since satisfaction of all sentence obligations (probation, parole, fines); and
- The court finds that approving your request is in the public interest. The court must consider the nature of the offense and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction.
The expungement of “public interest” indictable offenses gives great discretion to judges that are asked to hear the case. To petition for this expungement, courts require detailed documents of the previous conviction, and it can be tough to find and gather these copies. It is important to demonstrate to the court that you deserve the expungement and that it is otherwise within the public’s interest to remove the record of the offense.
Expunging a Disorderly Persons Conviction
An individual with a record consisting of one to three disorderly or petty disorderly persons convictions may expunge their criminal record as long as they have not been convicted of an indictable offense in New Jersey or any other state. If you were convicted of an indictable offense, you may be eligible to expunge up to two disorderly persons convictions. If you have been convicted of four or more disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses, or more than one indictable offense, you may not expunge your conviction record. In order to apply for expunging a record consisting of three or fewer petty disorderly or disorderly persons convictions, you must wait five years form the date of the conviction, payment of the fine, completion of probation or parole, or release from jail—whichever is later. There is an early pathway to expungement of these offenses as well, with similar requirements to those outlined for indictable offenses.
Expunging a Municipal Ordinance Violation
Municipal courts also hear cases involving violations of municipal ordinances (town laws) that are typically minor offenses. If your conviction was for a violation of a municipal ordinance, the sentence would not have been for more than 90 day or a $200 fine. Some examples of municipal ordinance violations include curfew violations, littering, obscenity, unleashed pets, and loud radios.
A record of a municipal ordinance violation may be expunged unless the individual was convicted of a prior or subsequent indictable offense in New Jersey or any other state, or if convicted of a disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense on more than two occasions. The waiting period is two years from the date of conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation, or release from jail, whichever is later.
More Information – Expungements & Firearm Rights
The following is a list of convictions that cannot be expunged:
- Criminal homicide (except death by auto specified in N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5)
- Human trafficking
- Luring or enticing
- Sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact
- Criminal sexual contract (if the victim is a minor)
- Criminal restraint or false imprisonment (if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim)
- Arson and related offenses
- Producing or possessing chemical weapons, biological agents, or nuclear or radiological devices
- Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct that would impair or debauch the morals of the child or cause the child other harm
- Photographing or filming a child in a prohibited sexual act
- Causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act
- Distributing, possessing with the intent to distribute, or using a file-sharing program to store items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child
- Possessing or viewing items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child
- Knowingly promoting the prostitution of the actor’s child
- False swearing
- Conspiracies or attempt to commit such crimes
In the case of convictions for the sale or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance or possession thereof with intent to sell, expungement shall be denied except where the crimes involve:
- Marijuana, where the total quantity sold, distributed, or possess with intent to sell was 25 grams or less;
- Hashish, where the total quantity sold, distributed, or possessed with intent to sell was five grams or less; or
- Any controlled dangerous substance provided that the conviction is of the third or fourth degree, where the court finds that expungement is consistent with the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the petitioner’s character and conduct since conviction.
Expungement of New Jersey Records of Young Drug Offenders
A person who was 21 or younger at the time of the offense of possessing a controlled dangerous substance, or of selling, distributing, or possessing marijuana or hashish with the intent to sell, and after at least one year following conviction, termination of probation or parole or discharge from custody, whichever is later, may be eligible to apply for an expungement if:
- The conviction was for possession of a controlled dangerous substance; or
- The total amount of the marijuana sold, distributed, or possessed with intent to sell was 25 grams or less; or
- The total amount of hashish sold, distributed, or possessed with intent to sell was 5 grams or less.
To be eligible, the following must also be true:
- You did not violate any conditions of your parole or probation after discharge;
- You were not convicted of any previous or subsequent crime or drug offense; and
- You did not have a prior criminal matter dismissed because of acceptance into a supervisory treatment or other diversion program.
Certain juvenile crimes that can be expunged include:
- Adjudications “as if” they were an adult record, such as indictable offenses as a juvenile that meet the adult expungement requirements (same rules for disorderly persons offenses)
- Juvenile delinquency adjudications where a) five years have elapsed, b) you have not been convicted of any crime 5 years prior to petition, c) you were never adjudicated of a non-expungable offense, d) you never had an adult conviction expunged; and e) you never had an adult indictable charge dismissed following completion of court-ordered program.
In summary, to get a criminal record expunged in New Jersey, you must not have any charges pending or otherwise still open, and you must have never been granted an expungement of an indictable offense in New Jersey or any other state. Finally, if your case was dismissed as a result of completion of a supervisory treatment or other diversion program, you must indicate the nature of the original charge, the court of disposition, and the date of disposition. The process of expunging a New Jersey record can be a difficult undertaking, especially without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
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