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. In most cases, a person whose criminal conviction has been expunged can be entitled to a pistol permit but there are some exceptions further discussed in our FAQ.
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 five 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.
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).
New Jersey offers individuals with criminal convictions the chance to clear their record. By filing for an expungement, a person can potentially have their criminal history erased from most public databases and isolated so that only a small handful of authorities can view them. For the most part, those who are granted an expungement are allowed to legally deny certain convictions in most cases. This includes in job applications, when enrolling in school, when applying for insurance, and many other scenarios.
However, not all individuals are eligible for an expungement of their criminal record in New Jersey. The chart below details the kinds of offenses that can be expunged, the requirements to begin filing, any limiting factors, and how long one must wait before filing.
|Offense/Conviction to be Expunged||Requirements||Restrictions/Limitations||Waiting Period|
|Arrests||Must result in dismissal||None||None|
|Pre-Trial Intervention||Must complete program||A person can only enter PTI once||6 months|
|Conditional Discharges related to Drug Offenses||Must complete program||A person can only enter CD once||6 months|
|Drug Possession and Certain Drug Distribution Offenses Between 18 and 21 Years Old||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines||Distribution/sales crimes are limited those of the third or fourth degree, less than 25 grams of marijuana, and less than 5 grams of hashish||1 year|
|Municipal Ordinances||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines||Depends on number of past convictions||2 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|
|Disorderly Persons (DP) Offenses||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines||Not allowed more than 5 disorderly persons convictions||4 years|
|Indictable Conviction (felony)||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines||Only one felony can be expungedMust not have any other criminal convictions in NJ or other states
Not allowed more than 3 disorderly persons convictions
|More than one Indictable Conviction||Must complete prison sentence and payment of fines||All felony convictions must either be part of a single judgment 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|
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?
In order to determine if one is eligible for an expungement, he/she may first need to obtain a copy of his/her criminal record. 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.
Many individuals who seek an expungement want their record cleared as soon as possible. This is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, New Jersey does not offer a path to expedite expungements, although there are some ways to avoid delays in the process. Read more about expedited expungements.
NJ Clean Slate Law
On Dec. 19, 2019, New Jersey established a new clean slate law that allows any person who has not had a conviction in more than 10 years to have his/her entire criminal record expunged. Like with any other expungement, the 10-year waiting period begins after the person has satisfied the conditions of any past convictions. The clean slate bill states that there is no limit to the number of indictable offenses or disorderly persons offenses that can be cleared. However, any specific offense that would disqualify a person from a traditional expungement (see above) also disqualify a person from a clean slate expungement. Also worth noting is that someone who has already been granted an expungement can still be eligible for a clean slate expungement if all other criteria have been met.
For now, those who wish to have a clean slate expungement must file a petition. However, New Jersey is in the process of building a process to automate clean slate expungements so that one does not need to fill out any paperwork.
E-Filing of Expungements
Also on Dec. 19, 2019, New Jersey signed a bill authorizing the establishment of an e-filing system for expungements. This would allow individuals to apply to have their records cleared online. The system has not yet been developed and its effectiveness is not known. Until such time, a person would be well advised to hire an attorney to help file the petition. An attorney can ensure the paperwork is complete and error-free. Moreover, if a hearing is required before the expungement is granted, the attorney can present arguments with the best chance of convincing a judge to clear the record.
What Are Special Expungements?
Special expungements is an expedited expungement process for specific situations. This includes cases that were dismissed or the defendant was found not guilty; or when a person completes a diversionary program such as a PTI, conditional discharge, or drug court. Special expunges require less paperwork and usually resolve faster. Read more about special expungements in New Jersey.
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.
The law offices of Carlos Diaz-Cobo is experienced and committed to successfully assist individuals with expungements. Call the Law Offices of Carlos Diaz-Cobo at 732-249-1125.