In simple terms, an expungement is a petition to the court to have your criminal record cleared. When granted, it means you are no longer required to disclose your criminal record on applications for employment, housing, professional licenses, or for other life opportunities. After an expungement, your record will not appear on a routine background check and if asked about any past arrests or convictions, you can answer with a “no.”
That concept may sound simple but the laws governing expungements in New Jersey are extremely complex and the procedure needed to pursue one is detailed and rigorous. Because of this, it is highly advantageous to work with a qualified criminal law attorney who is well-versed not only in the statutes but in case law where precedents have been made by courts that are now used to clarify the issue.
New Jersey Laws Regarding Expungement
The issue of who may qualify for an expungement is detailed in Title 2C:52 of the New Jersey Code, along with the procedure and other important information. The law’s definition of expungement includes “the extraction and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system.”
These records include “complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, "rap sheets" and judicial docket records.” Thus, anything to do with your arrest, conviction, or incarceration is removed and no longer available to anyone who knows how to run a background check.
Qualifications for Expungement
The most important issue in any expungement case is whether you qualify for one and how long you must wait in order to file an expungement petition. Each type of expungement category, as listed below, will impose different wait periods for filing. The wait periods can range from no wait period for arrests that failed to result in a conviction to up to 10 years for indictable offenses (felonies).
Most crimes in New Jersey qualify for expungement and are categorized for this procedure as follows:
- Municipal offenses
- Juvenile offenses
- Disorderly person (misdemeanor) offenses
- Drug possession and specific drug distribution offenses for those between the ages of 18 and 21
- Indictable offenses, otherwise known as felonies
- Convictions for multiple indictable offenses committed during one sequence of events
You will also qualify for an expungement if you were arrested but the charges ended in a dismissal or you were granted and completed a Pre-Trial Intervention program or Conditional Discharge program.
Some criminal convictions will never qualify for expungement. These include:
- Homicide (an exception is made for homicide by auto)
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Child endangerment when it involves sexual contact
- Sexual contact with a minor
- Aggravated sexual contact
- Criminal restraint
- Perjury or false swearing
- Sale or distribution of controlled dangerous substances such as heroin and cocaine (cases involving 25 grams or less of marijuana or five grams or less of hashish are expungable)
Talk to a Qualified Criminal Law Specialist About Your Case
Each potential expungement case is different due to the type of crime involved and other circumstances. However, the procedure will remain the same and will start with a petition. To get a more detailed answer on your unique case, it is best to consult with an attorney.
At the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC, we are highly knowledgeable in New Jersey expungement qualification and procedure. Our legal team can answer your questions and help you move forward with skill and dedication to best serve your future.
Contact us for a consultation about your potential expungement at (201) 574-7919 or through our online request form.