If you have been previously in trouble with the law, then it is likely that you have at least something on a public criminal record. If you have a previous conviction, then you can get rid of that conviction through the expungement process if that conviction is expungable and you are otherwise eligible. To determine whether you are eligible to have a previous conviction removed from your criminal record, you will need to obtain a copy of your arrest and criminal record. An inspection of your complete criminal record will help you determine what you are legally able to do regarding any past arrests or convictions. To understand all of your legal options, it is important to speak to an experienced attorney.
Where are Criminal Records Available?
You can get your criminal history in a few ways. Make sure you understand the different options that are available to you so you can decide which is the best option for you. Arrest and criminal records are available through two main agencies: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New Jersey State Police.
- FBI: To get a criminal record through the FBI, you will need to be fingerprinted. There are three options for fingerprinting that the FBI gives you.
- You can go through the FBI directly by submitting your request online and submit your fingerprints electronically by going to a participating U.S. Post Office location (the fastest method).
- You can mail an application to the FBI (the slowest method).
- You can submit your request through an FBI-approved channeler. This is a private company that has contracted with the FBI to handle requests like a criminal history check.
- New Jersey State Police: If you are a New Jersey resident, then you can get a copy of your criminal record for any criminal history that took place in New Jersey only through the New Jersey state police. You will have to set up an appointment with the State Police to get your fingerprint records. This process takes a couple of weeks on average.
If you have never been in trouble outside of the state of New Jersey, then the record from the New Jersey state police should be enough for your expungement petition. If you have ever been arrested or in trouble outside of the state of New Jersey, then you will need to obtain your criminal history through the FBI to ensure that you have your entire criminal record on hand for your expungement petition.
Why Is It Important to Run Your Own Criminal Record Check?
It is important to run your own criminal record check so you know what potential employers will see, and it is required before filing an expungement petition. On your criminal history, you will find your complete criminal record, which will determine your eligibility for an expungement under New Jersey law. The records of anything are only as accurate as they are entered. There may be mistakes in your criminal history that you will need to have corrected. Those mistakes must be corrected before you file an expungement petition. If you have questions about this process, make sure you speak to an experienced expungements attorney.
What is an Expungement?
An expungement is a legal procedure that allows someone to remove the public record of arrests or convictions under state law. Expungements are not available in all states, and the states that do allow expungements to do so under varied eligibility rules and procedures. Some states even allow people to go through the expungement process multiple times. In New Jersey, you are allowed to expunge a prior conviction or episode for an indictable offense. This is only as long as you are eligible for an expungement and that the offense is expungable. Not all criminal convictions can be expunged, so it is important that you identify what you are able to do before you start an expungement petition.
What is the Current Law on Expungements In New Jersey?
Expungement laws have changed significantly over time. In February 2021, New Jersey's expungement laws went through major changes along with several other states. One main change in expungement law in New Jersey was the enactment of the “Clean Slate” legislation.
Clean Slate allows for multiple convictions to be cleared in New Jersey. If you have multiple convictions, then you can have your entire criminal record expunged once ten years have passed since the end of your last conviction. This means that if you were on probation or were incarcerated, your 10-year clock starts once you have fully completed all of your punishment and responsibilities with the court. There were several other expungement law changes in 2021; some of them include the following:
- You can get an expungement even if you have more than one conviction
- Any convictions for drugs will be considered as disorderly persons offenses for expungement purposes
- Certain marijuana convictions don't require any waiting period to file for expungement
- Previously, you had to wait six years to file for expungement for most offenses; under Clean Slate, you must wait five years.
New Jersey expungement laws underwent many changes in 2021, and these are only some of those changes. Make sure you know that a successful expungement application will only remove your criminal history from publicly maintained criminal databases. The police and courts will always be able to see your private criminal history, even if your case was expunged.
Expungement Process in New Jersey
Once you have determined that you are eligible to file for an expungement after reviewing your criminal history, then you must prepare and file an expungement petition. You will need to include personal information and details about yourself and your criminal history in your expungement petition. It must include your:
- Any arrest dates
- Any criminal statutes that relate to your arrests or convictions
- All relevant case numbers
- The date of your conviction or disposition
- The final sentence of the court
You will also need to include an affidavit that confirms that you don't have any other current or pending criminal charges. It is not advisable to file an expungement petition if you have any charges pending, as you will likely be denied. Your expungement petition must be filed with the court where your last conviction or disposition took place.
After your expungement petition is marked received by the court, you will then be scheduled for a hearing date in front of a judge. On that date, the judge will determine whether to grant your expungement. If your expungement petition is granted by the court, then you will receive a signed judicial order confirming this. You will then have to take this signed order and serve it upon the correct state agencies to have your public criminal history cleared. Your criminal history will remain until you physically take the signed order and serve it.
What is a Disposition and Where Do I Get It?
A disposition is the final sentence and order from a court regarding a criminal case. Once your criminal case ends, the court will have made a disposition and put it in writing to describe the final outcome of the case and any associated punishment. A disposition can be a jail sentence, probation sentence, or other punishment. You are typically given a disposition on the final day of your case, but you can also request one if you don't have it. You will need to make a written request to the court to get a copy of your case disposition. Each court operates differently with disposition requests, so it is important to make sure you follow all of the court's processes and procedures so you can get a copy of your disposition as quickly as possible. Getting a copy of a court disposition can take a few weeks, so it is important to act quickly. If you have multiple arrests or cases that were in different counties, then you will have to repeat this process for every case in every county. If you are not sure how to do this, make sure you get an attorney's help.
What Are the Benefits of Getting an Expungement?
People have different reasons why they want an expungement. For some, it is the final step in getting past a brush with the law that they don't plan on repeating. Others have specific reasons why they want their criminal history cleared because a criminal conviction is making things difficult in one way or another. It is surprising how many people simply leave their criminal convictions on their records if they are eligible to have them expunged. An expungement of your criminal history can result in several benefits, which include:
- Regaining your Constitutional right to own a gun
- Being able to state that you have a clean criminal record on job applications
- Becoming eligible for certain types of federal funding or loans
- Becoming eligible for certain state-issued professional licenses
There are several reasons why getting an expungement can be helpful in your life if you have an arrest or criminal history. People often don't even realize the damage that an arrest or criminal conviction on their criminal record is doing.
What Are Some Reasons Why an Expungement Will Be Denied?
Expungements are not guaranteed, and expungement petitions can be denied for several different reasons. If you are trying to expunge an offense that cannot be expunged under New Jersey law, then your expungement petition will be denied by the court. The following crimes are not expungable under New Jersey law, and any expungement petitions related to these crimes will be denied by the court:
- Sexual Assault
- Drunk Driving / Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
These are just some of the crimes that are not expungable under New Jersey law. Make sure to consult with an attorney to determine if your prior criminal history can be expunged. Expungement petitions are also denied when they are incomplete or have any mistakes. An expungement petition that is missing important information or has errors will likely be met with an objection from the prosecutor and a denial from the sitting judge. It is important that your entire criminal record is included in your expungement petition. This means that you must report any and all arrests along with any criminal convictions.
How An Experienced Attorney Can Help
An experienced attorney can help you in several ways. First, your attorney can obtain your arrest and criminal record for you and save you the time and hassle of doing so. Once your arrest and criminal record are in hand, an inspection by your attorney can help you determine what is and isn't expungable under New Jersey law. Once it is determined what is expungable, then your attorney can file the necessary paperwork and properly complete your petition to give you the best chance at convincing the judge to expunge your prior arrest and/or conviction. While this is probably the first time you are going through the expungement process, an experienced attorney has gone through this process many times with clients facing different challenges along the way. Since you can only seek an expungement once, it is imperative that you do everything correctly. If you have questions regarding your starting your expungement petition, then call us at the Lento Law Firm so we can help.
Contact the Lento Law Firm Today
If you have questions about your arrest record, criminal record, or the expungement process, then it is important that you speak to an experienced attorney right away. It is important to understand how expungements work to effectively prepare and present your expungement petition to the court. Attorney Joseph D. Lento helps clients overcome past mistakes in New Jersey to live a better life, and he can do the same for you. To learn why Attorney Lento and the Lento Law Firm are the right decision to help you with an expungement, call us toll-free at 888-535-3686 or contact us online.