Convictions happen, and those who have a domestic violence conviction must focus on what they can control. If you have already been convicted of a domestic violence offense, or you're considering pleading guilty, then you should turn your attention to the possibility of expunging those charges.
Each domestic violence case, and subsequent expungement proceedings, is unique. You'll want an attorney with ample experience in domestic violence cases to lead your expungement petition. Consider The Lento Law Firm—a team that specializes in New Jersey domestic violence issues—as your legal advocates.
What Is Expungement, and Why Would I Want to Expunge a Domestic Violence Arrest or Conviction?
The American Bar Association (ABA) explains that expungement is "the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record."
There are obvious benefits to expunging a domestic violence arrest or conviction, as such records may:
● Lead prospective employers to deny your employment applications
● Make it difficult for you to obtain housing
● Cause admissions boards at universities or other educational institutions to reject your application
● Interfere with romantic relationships, as your record of arrest or conviction may appear in a basic Google search
● Cause significant harm to your quality of life
If you want to disclose a domestic violence arrest or conviction, you have the right to do so. With a public record of an arrest or conviction, though, your past is on full display. An expungement is the clearest way to regain privacy and take back control of your life.
Per NJ Rev Stat § 2C:52-1, if your expungement is successful, the state will conceal all records of every step in the judicial process, including:
● Processing records
● Index cards
● "Rap sheets"
● Judicial docket records
After expungement, there should be no formal indication that you were arrested or convicted of domestic violence.
The Expungement Process for Domestic Violence Offenses in New Jersey
If your arrest or conviction is eligible for expungement, then the process ahead generally involves:
● Getting a copy of the specific arrest or conviction you want to expunge
● Getting a notarized Petition for Expungement
● Filing the notarized expungement request with the appropriate governmental agency in New Jersey
● Filling out and filing an Order for Hearing
● Pay the filing fee for your expungement request
New Jersey Courts provides several of these forms online, and gives a detailed overview of the expungement petition process.
Having an attorney help with this filing process is smart. These forms can be complicated, and you can easily make errors or overlook important fields within the forms. Mistakes can be extremely costly, especially considering what is on the line with your expungement.
The ABA also notes that expungement proceedings generally take place at the state level. The agency in New Jersey that handles your expungement request may conduct a hearing, though this is not always necessary.
What Happens at a New Jersey Expungement Hearing?
If your expungement process involves a hearing, you'll learn whether you're expected to attend the hearing. The court may simply request that you file certain paperwork by a certain date (generally a week before the hearing), and the court will conduct a hearing without you present.
If you are instructed to attend the expungement hearing, then you'll want your attorney by your side. During the hearing, you and your attorney may have the opportunity to:
● Make your general case for expungement
● Present character witnesses (if the court permits)
● Explain specific steps you've taken to avoid future brushes with the law
● Contest any objections that the judge or others—a law enforcement officer, for example—pose to the expungement of your record
Whether or not you have a hearing, the presiding court will eventually rule whether to grant or deny your expungement petition. If the court denies your petition, your attorney will explain your options for re-applying.
Not Every Domestic Violence Offense May Be Expunged
The majority of domestic violence offenses in New Jersey are eligible for expungement, even if you've been convicted. You are generally able to seek expungement for an arrest or conviction related to:
● Terroristic threats
● Criminal trespass
● Criminal mischief
There may be conditions for expungement of these offenses, such as waiting a certain period of time after your conviction. Your attorney can explain any such conditions, which will directly affect your eligibility for expungement.
There are two domestic violence offenses for which you may not expunge a conviction. These offenses are kidnapping and homicide. If you were arrested for these offenses but not convicted, your attorney can explain whether you're eligible to seek expungement.
Hire a Capable Attorney to Lead Your Expungement Proceedings
A criminal record can hold you back from so much—fulfilling employment, starting a family, and living the life you deserve. When others see a domestic violence arrest or conviction on your record, they may assume the worst of you. There is no way to measure the true benefit of expunging such an arrest or conviction from your record.
For most, the first step in achieving an expungement is to hire an attorney. You will want to hire an attorney who:
● Focuses heavily on expungement cases in New Jersey
● Understands expungement-specific statutes on a deep level
● Has successfully expunged records for many clients
● Will handle the entire expungement proceedings for you
Attorney Joseph D. Lento fits each of these criteria. Lento and his team will file your expungement petition, accompany you to any necessary hearing, and help with all other aspects of your case.
Call The Lento Law Firm About Your Expungement in New Jersey
Expungement proceedings take time, and it's wise to start the process as soon as possible. It's time for you to move on from your past, and we don't want to delay.
The Lento Law Firm can also help you try and vacate a temporary or final restraining order in New Jersey. The process of vacating a restraining order differs from expunging an arrest or conviction, but may provide similar benefits.
Call The Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case. You can also submit your case details online.