Felony and misdemeanor convictions can follow a person for years. A blemished criminal record may prevent people from securing housing or seeking employment. Even if you were found not guilty or had charges dismissed, any kind of mark on your record can be problematic. This is especially true for those who wish to adopt children in New Jersey.
New Jersey mandates background investigations into anyone hoping to adopt a child. Unfortunately, a criminal record can jeopardize your chances of becoming a parent. A criminal record expungement attorney can help you clear or seal your record, enabling you to adopt or become a foster parent.
Technically speaking, expungement refers to the physical destruction of a criminal record. Most of the time, however, the term is just a catch-all phrase for the sealing of criminal records. When you petition to have your criminal records expunged, you're asking the judge to restrict them so that they're not easily accessible. Landlords, employers, and adoption agencies conducting a background check will not be able to view these records after expungement. By sealing them, you can legally deny the existence of your criminal record.
A wide range of charges can be expunged. If you had charges filed against you that were dismissed, for instance, you'd want these expunged, as they can reflect badly on you in the eyes of adoption agencies. This is especially true if you have charges that resulted in a criminal conviction. An experienced expungement attorney can help you through the expungement process.
Before applying for expungement in the state of New Jersey, you must first determine your eligibility. According to Chapter 52 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice, only certain charges may be expunged. Expungeable charges include statutorily approved indictable crime, convictions of disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly person offenses, violations of municipal ordinances, and arrests not resulting in convictions.
Multiple convictions may jeopardize expungement efforts. So too can plea deals. Court records that are still open may not be expunged, nor can charges that were dismissed because you were found not guilty by reason of insanity. More often than not, though, expungement applications are denied because they were submitted incorrectly. A New Jersey expungement attorney can help ensure your application is accurate and complete before submission.
Changes in New Jersey Expungement Laws
The Garden State has seen expungement reform efforts pay off in big ways recently. In June 2020, significant changes were made to the scope of expungements in New Jersey, with a particular focus on individuals with marijuana convictions. Immediate expungement is now possible for anyone charged or convicted of simple possession. That means you won't need to abide by a waiting period to pursue expungement.
Of course, adoption agencies hope to place children into drug-free homes. Even if your record has been expunged of marijuana-related charges, it's important to discontinue the use of cannabis before pursuing adoption. As the cultural acceptability of the drug continues to evolve, this may change. For now, though, it's best to avoid using cannabis while you're in the process of adopting a child in New Jersey.
New Jersey Adoption Standards
Prosepctive adoptive or foster parents must submit to a criminal history background check. Generally speaking, a New Jersey adoption cannot take place if the potential parent has a criminal record, a history of abuse or violence, or struggles with financial instability. A person may be denied the right to adopt if they have committed misdemeanors or felonies, including stalking, robbery, public indecency, and child abuse.
Once a person's criminal background has been checked, the path to adoption can begin. This includes a lengthy home study period, checking of references, and waiting to hear about the availability of a child. While the selection and placement journey can be exciting, none of these steps can begin unless a prospective parent passes their background check.
How Expungement Impacts the Adoption Process
An expungement order seals off your criminal records to the public. Once expunged, your record will be considered sealed. Non-law enforcement agencies like the New Jersey Department of Children and Families – with whom you'll be working throughout the adoption process – will not have access to your criminal history.
The major benefit of expungement is gaining the ability to legally deny that any crime ever occurred. This comes in handy when filling out adoption paperwork that asks questions like “have you ever been arrested or charged with a crime?” After expungement, you can legally answer no.
Make no mistake: caseworkers will drill you on anything and everything they find in your personal, professional, and criminal history. Even if your household is a safer and more stable environment than where the child currently resides, officials will seek out any perceived red flags that might jeopardize an adoptee's health and safety. Without expungement, you may find yourself on the defense once again.
Why Seek Expungement
A bounced check or decades-old arrest may not ultimately prevent you from adopting. A criminal background can, however, slow down an already lengthy process. The best course of action is to expunge your records before you ever begin pursuing adoption. This gives you a truly clean slate in the eyes of the law.
If you have a criminal background and would like to pass a background check for adoption, it's worth considering an expungement. Removing a criminal record can be extremely beneficial, not only because the history is hidden from the public record, but because you'll be able to honestly say you've never been convicted of a crime.
Hire a New Jersey Expungement Attorney Now
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can lead you through the expungement process, making it as painless an experience as possible. They understand the importance of clearing your criminal record, especially when the fate of an adopted child hangs in the balance. If you're eager to clear your name, call 888.535.3686 or fill out this form to schedule your consultation now.