Nonprofit organizations do a lot of good in the world. From supplying neighborhoods in food deserts with fresh groceries to connecting animal lovers with pets, there's no limit to what nonprofits can do for the greater good. It seems there's always another group coming together to support a new, noble cause.
The power to uplift communities, advance research, and promote ideals comes with serious responsibilities, too. Each nonprofit group has a responsibility to take reasonable measures to protect service recipients from harm. This duty extends to every member of the nonprofit. Even board members must be scrutinized before they officially join the organization.
Careful screening of volunteers, employees, and board members is an important risk management strategy. It's also incredibly common. Nonprofit groups of all shapes and sizes will typically require some form of background check for their board members. Unfortunately, a criminal record can jeopardize a person's standing within their favorite nonprofit organization.
Background Checks for Board Members
Many nonprofit organizations run background checks on their employees, volunteers, and board members. This might seem odd at first – after all, nonprofit board members are often established members of their communities with long histories of professionalism. It can be dangerous, however, for nonprofit organizations to make assumptions about anyone's background. Given the financial and reputational damage at risk, it makes sense to have a blanket background check policy for all members.
Even if a nonprofit group opts not to run full background checks on their board members, most will do a general records search at the very least. Unscrupulous past actions may reflect poorly on an organization, and stakeholders will be on high alert for red flags. A background check or records check may scrutinize a person's credit, their personal references, their employment history, military service records, and, of course, their criminal history.
What is Expungement?
Expungement – also known as record sealing – is the process of requesting that the court system modify, seal, or otherwise destroy a criminal record. In most instances, a sealed or expunged record cannot be accessed or viewed by the public. After expungement, a person is no longer required to disclose any past criminal history. Essentially, the expungement process wipes their slate clean.
Most states offer expungement as a way to acknowledge that deserving individuals should be allowed to fully contribute to society. When a background check is run on a person whose record has been expunged, the results will come back clear. This is vital for anyone job hunting, renting an apartment, adopting a child, or hoping to sit on the board of a nonprofit organization.
New Jersey Expungement Laws
Only certain individuals may have their criminal records expunged in New Jersey. Chapter 52 of Title 2C of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice says that a person who has committed only one indictable offense in their lifetime can be eligible for expungement. Someone convicted of two or more offenses, on the other hand, cannot have their records expunged, except for under very specific circumstances.
Some crimes are not eligible for expungement at all. Criminal homicides, kidnapping, robbery, sexual offenses, arson, perjury, terrorism, and the endangerment of the welfare of children cannot be expunged. Certain drug crimes are also ineligible.
Even if a charge is eligible for expungement, there may be a waiting period required. The only exception? Arrest records that resulted in dismissals are eligible for immediate expungement. Otherwise, individuals must wait between six months and six years, depending on the type of offense they're seeking to have expunged.
How to Get Your Record Expunged
If you're indeed eligible for expungement, you'll want to hire a New Jersey expungement attorney. They can cut through administrative red tape and attend any necessary court appearances required to expunge your record. While it's possible to go it alone, the average person may file documentation improperly. This may ruin your chance of getting the results you seek.
An attorney can help you understand the obligations you'll need to fulfill in order for your record to be expunged. For instance, you might be required to wait a specific length of time after your conviction, be released from prison, or pay a fine before you may apply for expungement of a given offense.
After meeting all requirements, a petition for expungement may be submitted. Next comes an order for a hearing, an expungement order, and proof of notice. All of this must be mailed to the courts along with a filing fee. While you might think you're fully capable of filling out some forms and putting them in the mail, it's important to remember that you may only get one shot to expunge your record. That's why it's so important to work with an attorney to ensure the expungement process is done right the first time.
Nonprofit board members who have their backgrounds checked after expungement will be in the clear. No evidence of the expunged charges will be listed in their records – their slates will be effectively wiped clean. This can have a powerful impact on a person's personal and professional life. Clean slates mean fresh beginnings and new opportunities.
Of course, expungement won't eliminate evidence of charges or convictions altogether. If there was media coverage of the arrest or trial, an online search of a person's name might return news stories of the incident. In the eyes of the law, however, you can say you've never been convicted of the expunged charge.
Contact a New Jersey Expungement Lawyer Today
You do a lot for your favorite charities and nonprofits. A single arrest or conviction can be a real roadblock to your efforts, though. Don't let a background check threaten your future on a nonprofit board. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm can guide you through the expungement process, making it as easy as possible. Clearing your criminal record is incredibly important – don't let just anyone handle a job this crucial. If you're ready to take action to clear your name, 888.535.3686 or fill out this form to schedule your consultation now.