When facing a criminal charge, few people consider the consequences beyond their initial sentencing. While expensive fines and prison time can indeed be punitive, they're often just the beginning. The impact of a single arrest can linger for years to come.
Arrest or criminal records can upend a person's professional life. This is especially true for those hoping to work in the public school system. Educators are held to high standards, both professionally and personally. A single infraction may jeopardize a person's entire career. In some cases, criminal records may prevent someone from entering the field of education at all.
The state of New Jersey recognizes the importance of second chances. Expungement laws help people rebuild their lives. The legal process of clearing an arrest record can be daunting, but with the right attorney, it's possible to close one chapter and begin anew.
The Impact of a Criminal Record on a Teacher's Career
Criminal background checks are required for any person working in a New Jersey school. Too often, a single strike on a person's record can send their resume straight to the rejection pile. Schools are often very strict in their hiring process. Any kind of arrest record may disqualify an otherwise excellent candidate.
School districts typically require their teachers to be certified, too. An arrest can jeopardize a person's certification goals. Since state certification often involves checking for prior arrests and criminal history, aspiring teachers may find their careers over before they've even begun.
Solutions for Educators
New Jersey law gives people the chance to clear their names of some older criminal and arrest records. Someone seeking a teaching job can clear their record via expungement. Record sealing is also an option, though it is typically used for those with more serious criminal records. Either motion can prevent a person's records from appearing on their background check. This is ideal for anyone hoping to work in a New Jersey school, since prior records often disqualify candidates from being hired.
Once a record is expunged in New Jersey, the conviction or arrest will be deemed “not to have occurred.” Records cannot be revealed by background checks conducted through state police or via the FBI. Instead, records are only used in very limited circumstances, like during future legal proceedings or immigration matters. This provides a kind of blank slate opportunity for New Jersey educators.
Many believe that if they are arrested but not convicted, the record goes away. This is not the case in New Jersey. Arrest records don't go away on their own. Regardless of whether a person saw their case dismissed, were found not guilty, or if they were discharged without conviction. Arrest records can follow one around for years, threatening a person's opportunities for housing and employment. Arrest records will continue to show up on background checks until a person opts to pursue expungement.
In New Jersey, arrests can be expunged immediately, so long as they didn't lead to conviction. No matter how many arrests occurred or how long it's been since the disposition, expungement is possible. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Those who took a plea bargain can only expunge their records if the conviction is eligible. Those found not guilty by reason of insanity or lack of mental capacity cannot have their records expunged.
For those whose arrests resulted in a conviction, the expungement process is more complicated. There are three main types of convictions in New Jersey: indictable offenses, disorderly persons offenses/petty disorderly persons offenses, and municipal ordinance violations. It's possible to submit an expungement petition if a person has one indictable offense; one indictable offense and up to three disorderly persons offenses; up to four disorderly persons offenses; or municipal ordinance violations, no indictable offenses, and up to two disorderly persons offenses.
Expunging a conviction usually comes with a waiting period, too. The length of the waiting period is tied to the nature of the offense. A disorderly persons offense will come with a five year waiting period for expungement. Municipal violation expungements are shorter, with only a two year waiting period. Indictable offenses, on the other hand, will take six years to be expunged.
New Jersey Expungement Attorney
It's easy to feel overwhelmed when looking into expungement for the first time. The laws are complicated and change over time. Nobody should undertake the expungement process without an experienced attorney by their side. They can ensure that the filing process is done properly, prevent possible errors, and help in getting a person's life back on track.
A criminal record doesn't have to mean the end of a person's teaching career. While consequences of an arrest or conviction can last a lifetime, expungement can offer a blank slate for New Jersey teachers. If you're interested in expungement, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at 888-535-3686.