Expungement is an important legal tool available to many individuals seeking to improve their futures despite having made mistakes in their past. Expunging your criminal record in New Jersey can lead to better academic opportunities, career advancements, and lifestyle improvements that you might otherwise be barred from due to restrictive background checks.
The process by which you petition for expungement is complicated even though at first glance, it may seem like all you have to do is file a Petition for Expungement to the appropriate court and wait for a judge to issue an Order for Expungement. The reality is that there are multiple opportunities for expungement petition cases to be denied or severely delayed for technicalities or substantive reasons. Seeking out an experienced attorney to help you with your New Jersey expungement will ensure you avoid these pitfalls.
The Expungement Process in New Jersey
Seeking to have your record of arrests or criminal convictions expunged in New Jersey is a multi-step process. As with nearly all matters involving the criminal justice system, each step involves red tape that can be overwhelming to individuals who don't have experience navigating the expungement process.
To expunge your criminal record in New Jersey, first, you must obtain the records of your arrests or convictions from the appropriate places—you may need to request records from multiple jurisdictions within the state. Once you have all of those records in hand, you need to prepare the Petition for Expungement, including all of the exhibits that have to be attached to it. Once the notarized petition is filed with the court, you'll be required to submit the filed petition with the appropriate agencies and wait for the judge who's been assigned to your case to issue either an Order for Expungement or an Order for Hearing.
If the judge orders a hearing, then you'll need to provide additional information to the court to justify your expungement request. Once you receive an Order for Expungement, there will still be work to do. You'll need to again submit the order to the appropriate agencies so they can get to work extracting your record from their databases.
Petitioning for expungement in New Jersey is a tedious process that requires patience. It's not uncommon for agencies and courts to experience a backlog, and these delays have only been exasperated by the Covid-19 shutdowns. Still, expunging your record can change your life, and allow you to participate in society in the way you deserve. Since the stakes are so high, it's important that you consult with an experienced New Jersey expungement attorney who can help you avoid the common reasons that your petition may be objected to or delayed.
The expungement process requires attention to detail, and it is common for your expungement to be objected to if you provide information that is either incomplete or erroneous. Something as simple as a few wrong dates can result in a delay in your expungement process.
An experienced New Jersey expungement attorney will ensure you're communicating with the appropriate authorities and including the correct information on your Petition for Expungement.
New Jersey expungement rules are limited by certain eligibility standards. That is to say that there are restrictions on what, and when, criminal records can be extracted.
First, it's important to understand the degrees of offenses in New Jersey. The most serious charges stem from Indictable Offenses, which are often punishable by 6 or more months in jail. Disorderly Persons Offenses, akin to misdemeanors in other states, usually carry penalties of less than 6 months' jailtime. Finally, Municipal Ordinance Violations are the least serious charge and are punishable by fines.
If you're unsure of the nature of your offenses, you should contact an expungement attorney in New Jersey today.
Your Petition for Expungement may be denied if not enough time has elapsed between your most recent conviction and the filing of your petition. It's critical to note that the clock starts ticking only after you've paid all fines, been released from jail, and completed any probation or parole requirements.
For Indictable Offenses and Disorderly Persons Offenses, the time requirement is 5 years. Notably, in some cases, you may be able for an early pathway to expungement, which shaves 1 year off the waiting period for Indictable Offenses and 2 years from Disorderly Persons Offenses.
Other offenses, such as Municipal Ordinance Violations, juvenile delinquency, and certain drug offenses, require shorter waiting periods and sometimes no waiting period at all.
Number of Offenses
In addition to the waiting periods that can jeopardize your expungement petition efforts, New Jersey law prohibits the expungement of more than 1 Indictable Offense, and while you can expunge up to 5 Disorderly Persons Offenses, that number is reduced down to 3 if you also have an Indictable Offense on your record.
There are laws in place, however, that account for individuals who've committed several crimes in a short time frame, and sometimes these “crime sprees” fall outside of the general number limitation restrictions. You should contact a New Jersey expungement lawyer today to see what timelines apply to your offenses.
Some crimes are not eligible for expungement in New Jersey. Generally, these crimes involve extreme violence or dishonesty. Human trafficking, aggravated sexual assault, arson, crimes relating to child pornography, perjury, and false swearing all fall into these categories under New Jersey law.
As is often the case with criminal law, there are exceptions. For example, manslaughter is generally not an expungable offense; however, in some cases where the victim's death occurred via auto accident, the record could be eligible for expungement.
Although there are rules affecting the type, timeline, and number of offenses you can expunge, there are also exceptions to these rules. For example, new provisions under the Clean Slate statute allow individuals who've been crime-free for at least 10 years to pursue expungement whereas they previously wouldn't have been able to.
These nuanced exceptions, in addition to everchanging laws, highlight the necessity for an experienced attorney when pursuing expungement in New Jersey.
Hire an Experienced New Jersey Expungement Attorney
Joseph D. Lento of the Lento Law Firm is an experienced New Jersey expungement attorney who understands that a Petition for Expungement isn't a one-size-fits-all form. Successful petitions for expungement in New Jersey require attention to detail and a nuanced understanding of the rules and exceptions. To learn how attorney Joseph D. Lento can help you pursue expungement, call 888-535-3686 today.