If you have a criminal or arrest record, you're undoubtedly worried about how this will affect your future career prospects. If you'd like to work for the State of New Jersey, you may have a legitimate concern. Unless you've expunged your record, the state can ask you about your criminal history after completing the initial application process.
New Jersey Hiring Process
The state hiring process can be somewhat daunting. According to GlassDoor.com, it takes an average of 106 days to complete the New Jersey state hiring process. But the hiring process follows a typical pattern involving an application, interview, and post-interview follow-ups before the hiring authority makes its final decision.
Initial Application Process
New Jersey has a “ban the box” statute, which means that no employer can ask you about your criminal history during the initial application process unless you meet an exception to the law. As a result, the state of New Jersey can't ask about your criminal record during your initial employment application process either. The application even states:
The Opportunity to Compete Act, N.J.S.A. 34:6B-11 to 19, went into effect on March 1, 2015. Under this new law, an employer cannot make any inquiry—either verbally or in writing, including in an employment application—about an applicant's criminal record during the Initial Employment Application Process, unless one of the limited exceptions below applies.
The state can ask about your criminal history before the first interview in some cases:
- If an applicant voluntarily discloses his or her criminal history during the Initial Employment Application Process
- Where the applicant is seeking a position in law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, homeland security, or emergency management
- Where the applicant is seeking a position where a criminal history record background check is required by law, rule, or regulation
- Where the applicant may be legally precluded from holding the position by virtue of his or her arrest or conviction
- Where any law, rule, or regulation restricts an employer's ability to engage in specified business activities based on the criminal records of its employees
- Where the applicant is seeking a position designated by the employer as part of a program designed predominately to encourage the employment of persons who have a criminal record
See State of New Jersey Application for Employment. After your first interview, the state may ask about your criminal history. After your interview, the state may ask for additional information, including references and your criminal history.
Expungement Eligibility in New Jersey
In New Jersey, you may be eligible to expunge past arrests and criminal convictions through several pathways. An expungement is an order from the court directing law enforcement agencies and court offices to extract your criminal history from the public. These records will still exist, but most people will no longer have access to them, including most employers.
- Indictable Offenses
You can expunge one indictable offense along with up to three disorderly persons offenses five years after completing your sentence, as long as you have remained arrest-free. There is an earlier pathway option that may allow you to expunge your record after four years. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2, 52-3 (2019).
- Disorderly Persons Offenses
You can expunge up to five disorderly persons offenses, including petty disorderly offenses, expunged after five years if you have no previous arrests and have completed your sentence. Under the “earlier pathway” option, you may be able to expunge these crimes after only three years. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3 (2019).
- Ordinance Violations
You can have an unlimited number of ordinance violations expunged. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4 (2019). However, there is a two-year waiting period for expunging each violation.
- Drug Court
If you successfully complete the Drug Court program in New Jersey, you may ask the court to expunge your entire record of drug-related arrests and crimes if:
- You didn't have another conviction during your drug court term
- You don't have any convictions for serious crimes that are ineligible for expungement
- You don't have any convictions for first or second-degree selling, distributing, or possessing with intent to sell a controlled dangerous substance
- Clean Slate Expungements
Under New Jersey's new Clean Slate law, you may be eligible to have your entire criminal history expunged. A clean slate would be a good option if you weren't previously eligible for expungement because you'd expunged another crime earlier or had multiple indictable offenses. There is a ten-year waiting period for this option once you've completed your sentence and paid all fines.
Some crimes aren't eligible for expungement in New Jersey. These include more serious offenses like murder, sexual assault, and kidnapping.
Can an Expunged Criminal Record Still Keep Me from Working for the State?
After you've expunged your record, an employer in New Jersey, including the State of New Jersey itself, cannot discriminate against you based on your criminal record. But, there are some stark exceptions, including law and military-related jobs.
Typically, if you apply for specific law-related jobs like law enforcement, the judicial system, or state and local detention facilities, you may have to report your complete criminal history, even if you've already expunged those records. It is similar if you apply to a federal law enforcement agency or the U.S. military, particularly jobs requiring security clearances.
New Jersey law also keeps any state licensing board from discriminating against you or denying an application because of your expungement. See N.J.S.A. § 2A:168A-3 (2013). However, this state law does not apply to any law enforcement agency. While state law enforcement agencies can set their official hiring policy to ignore expunged criminal history, they do not have to and may consider your criminal record, even if expunged. See N.J.S.A. § 2A:168A-6 (1974).
Hire an Experienced Expungement Attorney
If you've got a criminal record or arrest history and you're anticipating beginning the application process to work for the state of New Jersey, you should consult a skilled expungement attorney right away. It can take eight months to a year or more to expunge your record. If you have questions about how expungement can help you or whether you're eligible, attorney Joseph Lento can help. He and his team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping people in New Jersey through the expungement process for years. Give them a call at 888-535-3686 or contact them online to set up your consultation.