Having a criminal record may create adverse consequences for individuals who are pursuing education, employment, housing, professional licenses, and more. One potential solution that exists in New Jersey is to legally clear your record through the process of expungement. The purpose is to allow those who have had past criminal convictions to obtain a “fresh start.” There are specific eligibility requirements for obtaining an expungement.
Timing for Expungement
Eligibility for an expungement requires that a certain period of time has passed since the conviction. This period of time demonstrates to the court that you have not continued to engage in criminal activity. The number of years that must pass before becoming eligible varies according to the classification of the offense(s).
Levels of Offenses
- Indictable offense: These are crimes classified as either first, second, third, or fourth degree. The period of incarceration that may be imposed is generally a minimum of six months.
- Disorderly person offense: These are less serious infractions punishable by no more than six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. Criminal prosecutors may downgrade indictable offenses to disorderly person offenses when they deem it as appropriate.
- Petty disorderly person offense: Disorderly offenses that are less serious are classified as “petty.” The maximum penalties are 30 days in jail and a $500 fine, although jail time is unlikely to be imposed.
- Municipal ordinance violation: These are relatively minor infractions that violate a local ordinance of a city or town that are heard in a municipal court. Examples may include littering, failing to leash a pet, violating curfew, etc.
Early Pathway Expungement
An “early pathway” allows for someone with a conviction to file a request with the court for expungement after a shorter period of time. The request may be approved or denied at the court's discretion based on “public interest” and some additional documents are required to support the petition. For an indictable offense, the request may be made after a five-year period. The petitioner must have “substantially complied” with paying any fines ordered by the court and had no subsequent indictable or disorderly person offenses.
The early pathway expungement of a disorderly person offense conviction requires that only three years have passed. The petitioner must have “substantially complied” with paying any fines ordered by the court and had no subsequent indictable or disorderly person offenses. Expungement under the early pathway provisions for municipal ordinance violations requires that only two years have passed. In these cases, the petitioner may not have subsequent indictable convictions or more than two disorderly person convictions.
Court-Ordered Payment Plan
In the early pathway expungement process, we stated that the petitioner must have “substantially complied” with paying any fines ordered by the court. This means that if the petitioner has otherwise completed or complied with the other conditions and penalties imposed except for paying off their full amount of fines. Under these circumstances, the court will still potentially approve an early pathway expungement; however, the individual is still liable for payment and subject to “continued collection.”
Should I Retain an Attorney for Expungements?
Individuals seeking an early pathway expungement should consult with legal counsel. Having evidence of a criminal conviction cleared from your record can help remove potential barriers. Your attorney will be able to determine your eligibility, assist with compiling supporting documentation required, and ensure that the process is completed in a timely manner.
New Jersey Attorney for Expungement of Criminal Records
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has spent years representing clients in the New Jersey court system. He understands the importance of moving forward from mistakes made in the past and looking toward your future! Contact the office today at (888) 535-3686 for a consultation.