In New Jersey, having a criminal record can have a profoundly negative effect on your employment options. No matter how minor the crime is, and even after you've paid your debt to society, your criminal conviction and related records will likely show up on background checks, making employers generally less enthusiastic about hiring you. Convictions for certain indictable offenses (New Jersey's version of felony offenses) can also disqualify you from obtaining a professional license, working in the education or healthcare sectors, and so on. This is true no matter how long ago your conviction was; if it shows up on a background check, it can potentially hurt your chances for employment.
The good news is that New Jersey provides opportunities for eligible individuals to have their records expunged, thereby improving their chances for employment. However, the process of fully expunging records is complicated and usually requires the help of an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team have many years of experience helping people across New Jersey navigate the expungement process so they can move on with their lives. To schedule a consultation, call the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686.
What Is Expungement in New Jersey?
Expungement is a legal process that effectively "erases" a criminal conviction and related documentation from an individual's publicly accessible records. The primary benefit of this process is that it allows individuals to move beyond their past mistakes and not be continually penalized in various aspects of life, including employment.
The entire process of expungement for New Jersey is codified in Chapter 2C:52 of the New Jersey Statutes. The state legally defines expungement as the "extraction, sealing, impounding, or 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."
In New Jersey, rather than completely destroying the record, expungement means that the record is isolated and kept separate from general access. Your criminal records still exist, but they are only accessible by certain departments like law enforcement or by court order. That said, having your criminal records expunged means they will no longer show up in criminal background checks, and prospective employers and licensing boards will no longer be able to see or access them. An expungement also gives you the legal right to say you have not been convicted of a crime when asked by an employer.
What Types of Documentation Can be Expunged in New Jersey?
Expungement can be applied to a wide range of records, including but not limited to:
- Arrest records
- Jail booking information
- Court records
- Criminal history background checks
- Photographs taken in connection with criminal charges
What Crimes Are Eligible for Expungement?
New Jersey's policies for expungement eligibility are fairly generous but also complicated. Here are some examples of when certain offenses may be expunged.
- Indictable offenses (felony level): Up to one indictable offense may be expunged five years after completing your sentence.
- Disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanor level): Up to five may be expunged five years after completing your sentence.
- Ordinance violations: An unlimited number may be expunged two years after completing your sentence and paying all fines.
- Juvenile delinquent: Most juvenile violations can be expunged three years after completing the sentence.
- Arrests with no conviction: Unlimited number with no waiting period (6-month waiting period if you avoided conviction by completing a Diversionary Program).
Certain criminal offenses, like murder and sexual assault, are never eligible for expungement.
Additional Provisions for Expungement
In addition to the above, New Jersey now offers some additional expungement benefits. These include:
The "Clean Slate" Law
New Jersey's Clean Slate expungement provisions allow individuals to have their entire criminal record expunged ten years after they've completed their sentence and paid all fines, provided they incur no new criminal charges during that time. This provision is particularly beneficial for individuals who may have previously been unable to expunge a conviction due to multiple indictable offenses or prior expungements.
Early Pathway Expungement
New Jersey law provides a shortened waiting period for expungement for certain cases. Under the "early pathway" provision, the court has the authority to grant expungement in less than five years if it determines that you have:
- Met the 3-4 waiting period requirement;
- Paid all fees and fines;
- Substantially complied with a court-ordered payment plan or faced circumstances beyond your control that prevented compliance;
- Not been convicted of any additional crimes; and
- Made an argument citing compelling circumstances that necessitate the expungement.
The Expungement Process in New Jersey
The first step in the expungement process in New Jersey is obtaining a copy of all your criminal records. These may be held in different agencies and locations, and they can be difficult to track down. Once you've secured these records, you must then prepare and file a Petition for Expungement in the Superior Court in the county where your most recent conviction took place. A judge will then review the petition and make a decision on whether to grant an Expungement Order. If successful, your criminal records will be sealed, essentially becoming invisible in most circumstances.
How Expungement Can Improve Your Employment Prospects
Just as a criminal record can limit your job and career prospects, having those records expunged can open up more employment opportunities for you. Once a record is expunged, it is generally not accessible during background checks performed by potential employers. This means that a past mistake won't keep you from securing a job you're qualified for.
Specifically, expungement can help your career prospects in the following ways:
- Less hindrance with job applications. Your criminal history no longer shows up on background checks, and you no longer have to disclose that you were ever convicted of a crime.
- Obtain a professional license (or have a revoked license reinstated). A criminal record can restrict professionals from obtaining or renewing certain licenses. Having your records expunged can remove this obstacle.
- More employment options. You may be eligible to work in certain professions (such as teaching or medicine) for which a criminal conviction made you ineligible.
Expungement Attorney in New Jersey
The expungement process can be complex, and navigating it alone can be challenging. An experienced New Jersey criminal defense attorney can provide valuable assistance in this process. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his Criminal Defense Team can help determine your eligibility, guide you through the paperwork, and represent you in court if necessary. Their experience can increase the chances of a successful expungement, allowing you to move past your criminal record and towards a brighter future.
Don't allow the mistakes of your past to darken your future. If you're facing employment issues due to your New Jersey criminal history, schedule a consultation with the Lento Law Firm by calling 888-535-3686 or reaching out via our online contact form.