Everyone makes mistakes. But if your mistake ended with a criminal conviction, you've probably already begun to realize how having a criminal record can affect your future. Because of your criminal record, you may have come up against a bad background check for a job, a security clearance flag, or a scholarship revocation. Fortunately, in New Jersey, we believe in second chances. In some cases, you can expunge or hide your record from public view, giving you a chance to start over with a clean slate. Of course, your ability to expunge your record will depend on the type and severity of your crime.
Expunging Records in New Jersey
In New Jersey, expungement is the legal process you use to clean up a criminal conviction or an arrest from your record. Title 2C 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.” Expungement effectively hides your records from public view, but they will still exist.
Records you can expunge in New Jersey include “complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, “rap sheets,” and judicial docket records.” N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 (2019). But tracking down all of these records from multiple agencies can be challenging. That's why you need the experienced Criminal Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm to make the process faster and more efficient.
Pathways for Expungement
Your expungement options in New Jersey may vary depending on the convictions on your record, the severity of the charges, and whether you have multiple convictions. You may be eligible for a traditional pathway expungement, an early pathway expungement, or a clean slate expungement.
- Traditional Expungement Traditionally, you are eligible for one expungement every five years for an indictable offense and up to three disorderly persons offenses. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 (2019). An indictable offense is the equivalent of a felony conviction in other states, while a disorderly person offense is like a misdemeanor. If you have a conviction for a disorderly persons offense or petty disorderly persons offense, you can have up to you can expunge up to five of these convictions if you have no prior criminal history.
- Early Pathway Expungement Under the early pathway option for expungement, you may expunge your record after a shorter period if a court finds there are compelling circumstances. Typically, an opportunity for a new job, training, education, sports participation, or community involvement qualifies as “compelling circumstances.”
- Clean Slate Several years ago, the New Jersey legislature created a new path for expunging criminal records. Under the new “clean slate” legislation, you can expunge your entire record, including all arrests and convictions, ten years after completing your sentence and any supervision. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5.3, -5.4 (2019). In some cases, you can even expunge your record if you could not do so in the past because of multiple indictable offenses or an earlier expungement. However, some crimes in New Jersey are still ineligible for expungement.
Types of Offenses You May Expunge
- Arrest without conviction: You can expunge an unlimited number of arrests that didn't result in a conviction. However, if the court dismissed the charges under a diversion program, there is a six-month waiting period.
- Young drug offenders: You can expunge an unlimited number of convictions for possessing or using a controlled substance one year after completing your sentence or supervision.
- Juvenile delinquency: You can expunge any juvenile offense after three years if you are eligible to expunge the offense as an adult.
- Ordinance violations: You can expunge an unlimited number of ordinance violations two years after completing your sentence. Ordinance violations include crimes such as disorderly conduct, having an open container of alcohol, or violating a noise ordinance.
- Disorderly persons offenses: You can expunge up to five indictable offenses five years after completing your sentence, three years under the early pathway option. Disorderly persons offenses you may be able to expunge include crimes such as simple assault, shoplifting, or criminal mischief.
- Indictable offenses: You can expunge up to one indictable offense, along with three disorderly persons offenses, five years after completing your sentence, four years under the early pathway option. Indictable offenses you may be eligible to expunge include crimes such as drug possession, theft, or fraud.
Offenses You Can't Expunge in New Jersey
Under New Jersey law, some convictions are never eligible for expungement. These crimes include:
- Aggravated criminal sexual assault
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Arson and related offenses
- Causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act or the simulation of an act or to be portrayed in a sexually suggestive manner
- Criminal homicide, except death by auto
- Criminal restraint
- Criminal sexual contact with a minor
- Distributing, possessing with the intent to distribute, or using a file-sharing program to store items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child
- Endangering the welfare of a child if based on sexual contact
- False swearing
- Human trafficking
- Leading a child pornography network
- Luring or enticing
- Photographing or filming a child in a prohibited sexual act or for portrayal in a sexually suggestive manner
- Possessing or producing chemical weapons, biological agents, or nuclear or radiological devices
- Possessing or viewing items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child
See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2. Conspiracy to commit any of these crimes is also ineligible for expungement. New Jersey law also doesn't allow the expungement of any motor vehicle-related violations under Title 39. This includes DUI and speeding. However, interpreting New Jersey law to determine if your conviction is eligible for expungement can be challenging. That's why you need attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Expungement Attorney
If you're ready to clean up your criminal record, it can be challenging to parse which convictions are eligible for expungement and the best method. That's why you need attorney Joseph D. Lento and the experienced Lento Law Firm Team. They've been helping people in New Jersey clean up their criminal records for years, and they can help you too. Call them at 888-535-3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.