If you live in New Jersey and have been convicted of drunk driving, then you are likely wondering what you can do to remove the conviction from your criminal record. The legal process to remove a conviction is called an expungement. Many types of convictions are expungable, while the state legislature has specifically carved out certain criminal offenses that cannot be expunged. In this article, we'll define what expungements are, discuss New Jersey law on expunging drunk driving convictions, and describe how the expungement process works in New Jersey.
What is an Expungement?
An expungement is a legal process that gives people with criminal convictions the opportunity to erase one or more criminal convictions from their criminal records. Each state has its own laws relating to expungements. Some states allow people to seek multiple expungements. In New Jersey, you can expunge one prior conviction or episode for an indictable offense, as long as you meet several eligibility requirements. In February 2021, New Jersey's expungement laws changed in many ways. One major example of the big changes to state expungement law was the enactment of the “Clean Slate” legislation.
Under Clean Slate, someone who has multiple convictions can expunge their entire criminal record after 10 years have passed since the end of their most recent conviction. Expungement laws in New Jersey have also changed in 2021 in the following ways:
- Expungements are now available to those with multiple convictions
- Drug offense convictions are considered as disorderly person's offenses during expungements, allowing more access to expungements
- Certain marijuana and hashish convictions can be immediately expunged
- You only have to wait five years to seek expungement instead of six years, as previously required
These are just some of the changes to New Jersey expungement laws in 2021. Make sure to remember that a successful expungement petition will result in the removal of criminal records only on governmentally maintained public databases. If your conviction appears elsewhere, an expungement may likely not remove it.
Which Drunk Driving Crimes Can Be Expunged?
Under New Jersey law, the crime of drunk driving is an offense that cannot be expunged regrettably. If you have other convictions that are attached to your drunk driving conviction, then those may be excluded from expungement as well.
State laws vary on drunk driving expungements. Some states will allow you to expunge your drunk driving conviction for various reasons, while others, like New Jersey, simply don't allow a drunk driving conviction to be removed from a criminal record because it's a traffic offense. Traffic offenses are not eligible for expungement; only convictions that are classified as criminal offenses are expungable in New Jersey.
You may, however, be eligible for post-conviction relief, which involves investigating the conviction to see if there were any errors made to potentially reopen the case. If this happens, you may be able to avoid having the conviction stay on your record.
Expungement Process in New Jersey
Drunk driving aside, if your conviction is eligible for expungement, then your first step is preparing an expungement petition. In this petition, you will have to include important information about you and your criminal history, such as:
- Arrest date;
- Relevant statutes relating to your arrests or convictions;
- Relevant case numbers;
- Conviction date; and
- Your final sentence.
An affidavit must be attached to your expungement petition that confirms to the court that you don't have any other current or pending criminal charges. You have to file your expungement petition with the court of your last conviction.
Once your expungement petition is filed and accepted by the correct court, the court will then set a hearing date. If your expungement is granted, then the court will mail out a signed order from the judge to you confirming that your expungement petition was granted. This will clear your public criminal record once you physically take this order to the appropriate state agencies. Your criminal record will not be cleared until you personally serve this order.
What Are the Benefits of Getting an Expungement?
If you are successful in getting your prior convictions expunged, then you are in line for additional benefits and advantages that you didn't have before. Some of the most powerful collateral benefits and advantages of expungement include:
- Regaining your Second Amendment rights to gun ownership
- Having the ability to say that you don't have a conviction on job applications
- Renewed eligibility for certain federal funding
- The potential to be awarded certain professional licenses
The benefits of expungement can be great. In many cases, people don't even realize the kind of harm that a criminal conviction is doing to them in their daily lives.
What Are Some Reasons Why an Expungement Will Be Denied?
Expungement seekers can have their expungement denied for a variety of reasons. Expungements will be denied if you are attempting to expunge an offense that cannot be expunged. If you file an expungement petition for one of the following crimes listed below, then expect the court to deny your petition.
- DWI/DUI/Drunk Driving (as discussed)
- Rape/Sexual Assault
Many other types of convictions cannot be expunged in New Jersey. Another common reason why your expungement petition will be denied is because of mistakes in your expungement petition. If you file an expungement petition that is incomplete or file one with errors, you will likely face an objection from the prosecutor and/or a denial from the judge. If you have questions regarding your drunk driving conviction, then call us at the Lento Law Firm so we can help.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are looking to expunge a prior criminal conviction or looking for post-conviction relief in New Jersey, then having an experienced expungement attorney on your side can help prevent you from making the mistakes that many make when applying for an expungement. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring us is the right choice to help you prepare and file your application for an expungement. You can also contact us online.