New Jersey Expungement Attorney
Criminal Defense Attorney Dedicated To Defending Clients’ Rights Throughout The Expungement Process In Middlesex County, Mercer County, Union County, Ocean County, and Burlington County, NJ
Every day that you have a criminal conviction on your record can mean a lost opportunity in life. This opportunity can be a job you wanted and were otherwise qualified for. Or it may be a financial aid package you needed. You may want to reclaim your right to vote. Or you may want to obtain a firearm permit. Many companies and schools pursue a background check on prospective candidates. I am a highly experienced NJ expungement attorney. I have successfully expunged hundreds of criminal records for clients.
You may be wondering what you can do to rectify your situation. Almost everyone has some events from their past that they’re not proud of. Everyone made mistakes when they were younger. That does not mean that you should be punished for it for the rest of your life. You already paid for your mistake if you’ve served your sentence as ordered. No, you may feel like you’re still being punished for the mistakes of your past because of your criminal record.
Luckily, New Jersey statute allows for criminal records to be expunged in certain circumstances. This means that your record may be wiped clean as if the offenses never occurred. When your criminal history has been expunged, your prior convictions will no longer appear on your criminal record.
What is an Expungement?
New Jersey law defines expungement as “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.”
According to the American Bar Association (ABA), expungement refers to “the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record.”
If you want to have a criminal record expunged, you are asking the court to erase your criminal record. Expungement is not a pardon. An expungement cannot lessen your sentence or forgive the crime committed. It is a process that a person can go through once he or she serves their sentence or is excused.
If the expungement is granted and handled properly, it will be removed from all public access. This applies to potential employers, landlords, credit bureaus, and background check companies. After the expungement process is granted, you are allowed to answer “no” to any question about the underlying incident.
No one may disclose the existence of an arrest or conviction that was expunged. It is a criminal offense to do so under NJSA 2C:52-30. This charge is graded as a disorderly persons.
Who is Eligible for a New Jersey Expungement?
There are laws in place prohibiting potential employees from asking you to disclose expunged criminal records. You can, therefore, feel secure in the knowledge that you can move on with your life without the mistakes of the past clouding your future. Applying for and being granted a criminal record expungement in New Jersey can be a complicated process. But for most people, it is entirely achievable.
Unfortunately, strict rules govern who can and cannot receive an expungement. The process can also be somewhat tedious and time-consuming, with precise paperwork and deadlines. Do not try to navigate this process yourself. Contact my office for a free consultation. We can review your record, explain the process, and handle the expungement seamlessly.
First, only New Jersey criminal records and juvenile records can be expunged. A New Jersey judge does not have jurisdiction to order records from other states or jurisdictions to be expunged. Second, motor vehicle records, including DWI convictions, and civil orders cannot be expunged. Whether your criminal record can be expunged depends in part on what you were convicted of. Another important factor is how much time has passed since you completed whatever sentence was imposed. Finally, how many and what type of other convictions are on your record. These issues are expunged below.
Can Any Offense Be Expunged?
In New Jersey expungement law, convictions of serious crimes cannot be expunged. These crimes include:
- Human trafficking
- Arson and aggravated arson
- Sexual assault
- False imprisonment
- Convictions of a DUI or DWI also cannot be expunged
- Motor vehicle convictions can also not be expunged
Most other convictions can be expunged. These including misdemeanors, disorderly and petty disorderly convictions. You can also expunge municipal ordinance violations in most cases. Most other felony or indictable offenses can also be expunged. Whether a violation is eligible for expungement or not depends on factors. These include the number of crimes committed or previously expunged.
How Do You Get the State to Expunge Your Records?
A better question would be the following. “How do you get the various agencies who have records on you to remove or destroy them?” Criminal records are never destroyed. However, they can be “extracted and isolated” by these agencies. This would remove them from public view if those agencies are ordered to do so.
These agencies include the New Jersey State Police and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office. They also include the county prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s department, and probation department in whatever county you were prosecuted in. Also included are the local police department and municipal court in the town you were arrested or charged in. How do you force these agencies to remove and isolate your records? The best way is by hiring an experienced NJ expungement attorney. I have countless success stories expunging records throughout New Jersey.
The first step in the expungement process is to ensure that you have your entire criminal case history. You must obtain all previous case information for every arrest and charge. This includes the date of your arrest and the statute(s) and offense(s) under which you were arrested. These records should also include dates for the criminal indictment, accusation, and summons. You should also get any related docket numbers and warrant numbers. Your records should include the date of disposition (for example, a conviction or a not guilty verdict) and the punishment if convicted.
Background Checks & Records Searches
Obtaining the above information can be done in several ways. For municipal court case histories, you can contact the court where your case was heard. You will need to ask them for a certified case disposition.
NJ also offers a free public database for municipal court records. For Superior Court records, you have a few options. One is to send a records request to the criminal division manager’s office. You send this to such office in the county where your case was heard.
NJ also offers a free public access database for indictable convictions through “promis gavel.” However, that database only returns information from certain cases. Specifically, only those where an indictable or felony conviction occurred. If your case was dismissed (even through PTI) it will not likely show up on that search.
Finally, if you have had several arrests and/or convictions, you should obtain a more formal background check. That can be done through a private company called IdentoGO. After completing an on-line application, they will schedule you for an appointment. At the appointment, you will be fingerprinted or live-scanned and fill out some paperwork. In a few weeks, they will mail you your complete criminal case history. It is crucial that you or your attorney obtain your entire criminal case history before filing your expungement.
What if you have an out-of-state criminal history? You should obtain the records from those cases as well. If your out-of-state case was handled by an attorney, reach out to them for assistance with this. For cases where you represented yourself, contact the court where your case was heard. Ask them for a certified disposition of your case.
Preparing the Expungement Petition
Great, you have obtained your entire case history. Now its time to begin drafting the expungement petition and related documents! The petition for expungement is the formal document that asks the court to order the sealing of your criminal records. The petition must include the following information:
- Your full name. If you have changed names, gotten married, or used an alias, you should indicate same.
- Address of petitioner.
- Date of birth.
- SBI number if applicable
- Your entire criminal case history. You must disclose your entire record! Failure to do so will lead to denial of your expungement. These other matters are known in expungement parlance as “Demarco cases” from the decision in State v. Demarco.
- A formal request for expungement.
- The petition must be dated, signed, and notarized.
The Verification Page
Another required document that must be prepared is the verification. While some attorneys include the verification in the actual petition, this practice is discouraged. Some County prosecutors will object to the entire expungement if you do not submit a separate notarized verification page. The verification page must include the following:
- An attestation that the statements made in the expungement petition are true to the best of the applicant’s knowledge.
- Acknowledgment that there are no disorderly persons, petty disorderly persons, or indictable charges pending against the petitioner.
- If you are seeking the expungement of indictable or felony offense an additional statement is needed. This is to attest that you have never been previously granted an expungement or similar relief. This applies to previous NJ expungements and similar relief from a different state.
- The verification must be signed and notarized if being submitted separately from the petition.
Additional requirements apply to filing expungement petitions. There must be a cover letter indicating what the packet contains. The packet must also contain a hearing order (discussed below) and a final proposed NJ expungement order (discussed below. You must also include two (2) self-addressed stamped envelopes. A filing fee of $75 used to apply but has recently been eliminated in most cases.
Preparing the Order for Hearing & Proposed Expungement Order
Another document that must be prepared and filed along with the petition and verification is the order for hearing. This is a form that the attorney or applicant prepares that lists all the agencies who must be served. They must be served will all file-stamped documents you submitted the court. It must indicate the applicant’s identifying information and the date and time of the expungement hearing.
The last document that must also be submitted is the proposed final expungement order. This is the document that the judge will sign after approving your expungement. The order must list your identifying information and indicate what records are being expunged. The order will direct all the listed agencies to remove al records from your case. The records are not destroyed. Rather, they are isolated within the system. The FBI is not a party to the NJ expungement process. A NJ judge does not have jurisdiction over the FBI. However, the NJ State Police will automatically notify the FBI once your records have been expunged. The FBI will usually go ahead and seal their records as well.
After you file the expungement petition and related documents there are several other steps. The judge will use the hearing order to schedule your hearing 35 to 60 days after you file your Petition for Expungement. You or your attorney must then serve all the necessary agencies via certified mail. Once the return receipts come back, you must provide them to the court and the prosecutor’s office. You must file proof of service along with the green cards. While your attorney is doing this, the prosecutor’s office and NJ State Police will conduct a background check.
A party to the expungement may object. This is usually done by the county prosecutor’s office. Every county prosecutor’s office has at least one assistant prosecutor dedicated to handling expungements. If their or the NJ State Police background check turns up grounds for denial, they will notify you and the court. If the problems are technical or can be fixed, an amended expungement petition can usually be filed. An amended can be dismissed by the court however in some cases.
Once the expungement is granted, the court will send you or your attorney a copy of the expungement order. The original is filed with the court. Copies of the final order must be sent to all relevant state agencies. Those agencies will then expunge your information from their records.
The most important of these parties is the NJ State Police. Once they receive the expungement order, they will correct their records to conform with the exact language of the expungement order. This is why it is crucial to ensure the petition is 100% accurate. In a few months’ time, your NJ expungement attorney will receive a final confirmation letter from the NJSP. This letter will confirm that the process has been concluded.
Expunging Dismissed Charges
Even if a judge dismisses your charges, your arrest record still exists. This record can cause problems with future employment. Anyone who runs a background check on you will see this arrest record. In order to clear your record, you must request an expungement of all records related to the dismissed charge.
The first such situation exists if you merely arrested or charged with an offense, but the charges were later dismissed. Here, you may apply for expungement right away. However, if the charges were dismissed following completion of a diversionary program, it is is not automatic or simple. Diversionary programs include conditional discharge or dismissal. They also include the pre trial intervention program. You must wait six (6) months from the dismissal date if your charges were dismissed through a diversionary program.
There is a newer option for expedited expungement of cases that are “straight dismissed.” In such a case, you should make an application to the court for automatic expungement. That can be done by completing this form. Once you request this expungement in NJ, the court must order the automatic expungement of all records for that offense. There is no waiting period. Your attorney should request expungement at the time your case is dismissed. If you fail to do so, you can file a later petition for expungement through the regular process.
When Are You Eligible For An Expungement In New Jersey?
Eligibility for expungement in New Jersey can be difficult to understand and will vary depending on your circumstances. First, you won’t be eligible for expungement of prior offenses if you have any open or pending charges against you. Otherwise, everything turns on the type of offense that was committed, and whether it was an indictable offense, a disorderly person’s offense, or a violation of a municipal ordinance.
Waiting periods vary depending on the type of crime committed. This correlates largely to the seriousness of your conviction. If you were convicted and ordered to pay a fine, the clock would start ticking on the date that you paid the fine. However, if you were convicted and sentenced to probation or prison time, the clock wouldn’t start ticking until the date of your release from either. This means that you don’t start counting the time period until expungement eligibility from the date of your conviction. You start counting when you complete all sentencing requirements for your case. You must wait a certain amount of time after completing your sentence before you can receive a New Jersey expungement.
- Dismissals require no waiting period.
- Dismissals, after completing a diversion program, require 6 months.
- Drug offenders under the age of 21 require 1 year.
- A municipal ordinance violation requires 2 years.
- A juvenile conviction (adjudication) requires the shorter of 3 years. Or, the waiting period required for the offense if committed by an adult.
- Disorderly persons offenses require 5 years or 3 years for an “early pathway” expungement.
- Those convicted of a crime (indictable or “felony”), may apply for an expungement after 5 years has passed since they completed their sentence or term of probation. This is through an “early pathway” or “pubic interest” expungement. To do so, you must convince the judge that it is in the public interest to grant the expungement. Showing that it is in the public interest that you obtain an expungement is easier said than done. You can avoid this requirement if you wait for 6 years instead of 5. The individual also must not have ever been convicted of a crime either before or after the incident or have been convicted of more than two disorderly persons offense. The 6 year period was recently reduced from 10 years which applied under the previous expungement law.
Have You Been Previously Granted an Expungement?
Even if you have been previously granted an expungement, you should ask the court to consider another expungement. New Jersey offenders are eligible for more than one expungement, depending on the type of offense committed. New Jersey allows the following expungement maximums:
- Four petty/disorderly persons expungements if not convicted of a felony
- Three petty/disorderly persons expungements if convicted of a felony
- Unlimited number of disorderly persons convictions expunged. This applies if the applicant has no other disorderly persons convictions. Also, all disorderly persons convictions must have been entered on the same day.
- Only one criminal offense can be expunged. There is an exception if all closely related criminal convictions are listed in a single judgment. The applicant also must have had no convictions for any other crime or offense.
Grounds For Denial
Some people simply aren’t eligible for expungement at all. Others may qualify but are denied. Expungement petitions can be denied for a variety of reasons. They include the following.
- A statutory requirement was not met.
- The court finds that public access to your records outweighs the value of the expungement to you.
- A party objects to the expungement. The burden of proof is on the party making the objection
- In some cases where dismissed charges are sought to be expunged. This applies when the dismissed charges were part of a plea bargain which led to the conviction of other charges. Once the underlying conviction is expunged this no longer applies.
- There is civil litigation pending between you and the state regarding the matter.
- If you are seeking expungement of a felony if you have had a previous record expungement.
- There used to be a bar to expunging a criminal record if you also had charges dismissed through PTI. However, this section of the law was repealed. So this is no longer the case.
The court can deny the expungement based on any of these reasons. It can do so following a party objection. A court can also do so of its own decision. If your expungement is denied, you can appeal that decision. To do so, you must file a notice of appeal. This is filed in the Superior Court, Appellate Division. You must file that notice within 45 days of the denial. If you fail to do the appeal may be dismissed. Appeals are highly technical. Definitely speak with a NJ expungement attorney who has experience handling cases in the Appellate Division.
In 2017, the state passed legislation creating a veteran’s diversionary program. This is for eligible service members of the armed forces who suffer from mental health issues. This program is available for petty disorderly persons, disorderly persons, ordinances, and third and fourth-degree offenses. In such cases, the individual may be diverted from criminal charges and instead referred to resources tailored to assist the veteran. Exceptions apply however for crimes involving violence or involving victim restitution. Criminal proceedings may be reinitiated however if the veteran fails to abide by the program conditions. A veteran who successfully completes the Veterans Diversion Program can apply for expungement at any time following the dismissal of their matter.
Access to Expunged Cases
Some important limitations apply to expungements. A first exception exists if you are applying for a law enforcement position. The next is if you are applying for a job with the state judiciary. The military can also find expunged records.
Finally, expungements have no impact or real benefit in regards to immigration matters. You will still have to disclose any expunged case information for immigration applications. This includes applications for citizenship, permanent residency, visas, and asylum.
Information in certain state registries also cannot be expunged. These include the Controlled Dangerous Substance Registry, the Domestic Violence Registry, and the PTI enrollment registry. The good news is that these registries are not accessible by the public or potential employers.
The department of corrections may still access expunged records in some cases. They may do this in order to help them “classify” a new inmate. NJ State Parole Boards also may access expunged records. They may do this in order to determine parole decisions for inmates.
Start Your New Jersey Expungement Today
A criminal record is too damaging to your reputation to ignore. If you would like your criminal record erased, NJ expungement law may help. Once you have your record expunged, you can secure better housing and employment options. A New Jersey expungement attorney can help you formulate your best argument for expungement. Contact NJ expungement attorney Anthony Vecchio, an attorney who has defended thousands of clients, for a free consultation.