Applying for college admission can be a complicated process. Many academic institutions ask to see your high school transcripts, a list of your extracurricular interests, and letters of recommendation. In addition to the basic requirements, the Chronicle of Higher Education reports that over half of colleges will require an applicant to disclose whether they've ever been convicted of a crime.
Disclosing criminal convictions to get into college puts thousands of would-be students in a bind. After all, people go to college to better themselves and build a future. It's often unfair to hold past mistakes against individuals who are now ready to build productive lives, especially if those mistakes were made when they were younger.
So, what can you do if you are serious about getting admitted into college, but you made some poor decisions when you were younger? In some cases, you may be able to expunge your record.
What Is Expungement?
The term Expungement means “to erase or remove completely.” While expunging your record doesn't mean that the crime committed has been forgiven, it does mean that the records relating to it have been sealed. One thing to note is that in New Jersey, these records are not destroyed, they are “extracted.”
The New Jersey Criminal code explains the expungement process as “the extraction, sealing, impounding, or isolation of all records on file” within the court system and ancillary facilities such as law enforcement or criminal justice agencies, detention centers, and correctional facilities. Once your record has been expunged, it is essentially undiscoverable through most background checks, and you'll only be required to disclose the offense in certain circumstances—like applying for a job within law enforcement.
Expungement is particularly useful for those who made mistakes when they were younger and are now trying to overcome the stigma associated with bad decisions they made before they knew better.
It's important to note that just because your conviction has been cleared from the New Jersey criminal justice system, evidence of it may still exist elsewhere on social media, news articles, or within the private sector.
How to Expunge Your Record in New Jersey
The procedure for expungement in New Jersey is a multi-step process including but not limited to the following:
- Locating all of the criminal records for all relevant locations
- Filing a notarized request for expungement
- Sending a petition to the required government agencies
- Attend the expungement petition hearing
If you are successful and the expungement petition is approved, you'll then submit the final order to the appropriate agencies so they can execute it.
The entire process can take some time, so it's imperative that you initiate it long before you anticipate applying for college admissions. Generally, it can take up to six months; however, backlogged courts can delay the process. Many courts are still playing catchup from the Covid-19 health crisis.
What Can't Be Expunged in New Jersey
Not every type of criminal offense can be expunged, and while advocates continuously work to widen the net of the type of convictions that can be extracted from your record, limits still remain.
In New Jersey, crimes are categorized into three groups. There are serious crimes known as indictable offenses, disorderly persons offenses, and municipal ordinance violations. Indictable offenses equate to felonies, and disorderly persons offenses are often known as misdemeanors in other jurisdictions. Municipal violations are the least serious of the three.
Many serious crimes cannot be expunged from your record. These include murder, robbery, arson, sexual assault, D.W.I. convictions, and some convictions for possession with the intent to sell marijuana. Importantly, New Jersey allows for expungement of marijuana-related crimes if the amount in possession is less than an ounce or if there are “compelling circumstances.”
What Can Be Expunged in New Jersey
If you have no indictable offenses on your record, then you can request to expunge up to five disorderly persons offenses in a traditional expungement petition. Additionally, the state offers Drug Court Expungement, available to individuals who have completed a court-ordered rehabilitation program and haven't been convicted of other offenses since exiting the program.
In February of 2021, the Clean Slate Act took effect. Under the Act, the limits on the number of expungable offenses described above is removed. This new law applies only if the petitioner has remained offense-free for ten years or more. The restrictions on the type of crime that can be expunged still apply, however.
For younger individuals applying for college admissions, the Clean Slate Act may not be as helpful, but for those who decide to pursue higher education later in life, this new law may be a game-changer. After all, the purpose of expungement is to allow reformed individuals a second chance. What better way to move forward in life than getting your degree?
Expunging Juvenile Records in New Jersey
There are a few different factors to consider if you are trying to expunge juvenile records in New Jersey. Under the New Jersey Laws pertaining to the expungement of juvenile records, an entire juvenile record may be expunged if no charge of crime or delinquency has been made in the three years prior to filing the expungement petition.
There are caveats to this rule, however. For example, a juvenile record can't be expunged if it falls outside of the allowable expungements for adult crimes. Additionally, juvenile records cannot be expunged if the petitioner has already had an adult conviction expunged.
The laws affecting the expungement process are filled with nuance, and you're more likely to find success if you hire a New Jersey expungement attorney.
Hiring a New Jersey Expungement Attorney
Expungement laws in New Jersey can be confusing. Since the petitioning process is tedious, time-consuming, and high stakes, it's always best if you hire an experienced New Jersey expungement attorney. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm understands the procedural caveats associated with expunging your record and that there is no time to waste in getting your life back on track. Call 888-535-3686 to learn more today.