The charge of conspiracy is a unique one in our criminal justice system because it is always tied to another, underlying offense. No one is simply charged with “conspiracy.” Rather, they're charged with conspiracy “to commit”...something: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit fraud.
Because it is so unique, conspiracy has some legal quirks. For instance, you don't need to have committed the underlying crime to be found guilty of conspiracy. Planning to commit the crime is enough, even if no one ever actually followed through.
Sentencing can be peculiar as well. In New Jersey, for instance, sentences for conspiracy are based on the specific nature of the crime. If the participants conspired to commit second-degree murder, then they will be charged with second-degree conspiracy. If they conspired to commit third-degree assault, they will be charged with third-degree conspiracy. The one exception is first-degree offenses, which are treated as second-degree conspiracy offenses.
For the same basic reason—because conspiracy is connected to another crime—the process of expunging a conspiracy conviction from your record isn't always as straightforward as it is with other crimes.
Expungement is a legal term that refers to “the process by which a record of criminal conviction is destroyed or sealed from state or federal record” (American Bar Association). Courts are instructed to treat the conviction as though it had never happened, which obviously has some advantages.
Of course, you can't wipe convictions from people's minds. Those convictions can live on indefinitely, for instance, in online content such as a newspaper article about your sentencing. Likewise, you can't stop other people from talking about a conviction, including on social media. In a sense, then, you can't ever truly escape from your past.
Even so, expunging a conviction from your record means it won't show up in a background check. That's important since both employers and landlords frequently use such checks to screen applicants. Expungement can also be useful if you want to relocate and start fresh with a clean slate. While people in the community where you committed your crime may have long memories, those in a new place won't know your past and, with an expungement, won't be able to find out about it.
Expungement in New Jersey
In the last several years, many states, including New Jersey, have begun to pass meaningful legislation making it easier to expunge criminal convictions. The reason is simple: lawmakers have finally recognized that in a digital world, a conviction can wind up costing a felon long after they've served their time and paid their debt to society. Once a person has served their sentence, particularly for a low-level crime like drug possession, they shouldn't be prevented from finding a place to live or meaningful employment.
In fact, New Jersey has been at the forefront of U.S. states when it comes to reforming expungement laws. In 2019, for instance, Governor Murphy signed Bill no. 3205 into law. Among other things, that law calls for the creation of a system of automatic expungement for those with a clean record for ten years.
For now, the process requires some patience and resolve. Expungement involves, for example, requesting records from the jurisdiction where you were arrested, filling out a number of forms, distributing copies of those forms to several state and local officials, and attending a hearing in Superior Court. Generally, getting a conviction expunged takes at least six months to complete and, in some cases, longer.
Expunging a Conspiracy Charge
As might be expected, expunging your record in New Jersey comes with some requirements and restrictions. You must, for example, pay a $52.50 filing fee as part of the process. You can petition the court for expungement after five or six years, depending on your offense, but you must have committed no additional offenses in that time period.
In addition, not every offense is eligible for expungement. Several crimes simply can't be removed from a criminal record, including:
- Criminal homicide
- Human trafficking
- Aggravated sexual assault
- Criminal sexual contact with a minor
- Crimes related to child pornography
What about conspiracy charges? Here again, conspiracy charges are tied to the underlying offense of the conspiracy itself. If that underlying offense can't be expunged from records, then a conspiracy conviction to commit that offense also can't be expunged from records.
In short, if you conspired to commit fraud, you can petition the court to have that conviction expunged. If, however, you conspired to commit robbery, you are ineligible for expungement since a robbery conviction itself cannot be expunged.
Joseph D. Lento: An Expungement Lawyer You Can Trust
The expungement process in New Jersey can be confusing, and the process for expunging a conspiracy conviction especially so. One qualification for expungement, for instance, is that you have completed all the requirements of your sentence, and courts can and do make mistakes in assessing whether you've done so. Catching mistakes like this means knowing the law, past and present. In addition, expungement involves filling out forms, talking to law enforcement agencies, and navigating a hearing. Don't risk the success of your expungement by trying to do everything yourself. Contact a qualified attorney to guide you through the process.
Joseph D. Lento has personally handled thousands of expungement cases. He understands the law, including the most recent changes that have taken place with regard to expungements. Joseph D. Lento knows how to talk to law enforcement agents and judicial system representatives so he can make sure your expungement goes smoothly and quickly. More importantly, though, he knows how to talk to you. He understands what you're going through and will do everything in his power to get you a satisfactory outcome.
If you're thinking about expunging your record, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.