If you have a criminal record, you've probably run into stumbling blocks since then. Whether applying for a job, a college or graduate program, or trying to rent an apartment, you'll find that an arrest record can create life-long barriers. Fortunately, the state of New Jersey believes in giving people second chances. In many cases, you may be able to obtain a court order expunging your criminal record.
What Is An Expungement?
Expungement is a court process for clearing criminal arrest records and convictions under New Jersey law. New Jersey's expungement statute defines expungement as “extraction, sealing, impounding, or isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial, or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system.” N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 (2019).
While expunging your record will extract your files, they do still exist. However, only law enforcement officers or certain other officials can access them. Your record will no longer be available to the public, and it won't appear in any state or federal databases.
Expungement Options in New Jersey
New Jersey offers several different pathways for expunging criminal history, including a traditional pathway with a five-year waiting period, an early pathway with a three to four-year waiting period, and a Clean Slate pathway, with a ten-year waiting period. The pathway that's the best option for you will depend on the specific circumstances of your criminal record, including:
- The nature of your crime
- Whether you have a conviction for one or more indictable offenses
- Whether you have a conviction for one or more disorderly persons offenses
- Whether you have any past arrests or expungement
- How long it's been since you completed your sentence, including paying all fines
While you can expunge most convictions, some serious crimes can never be expunged in New Jersey. These offenses include crimes such as sexual assault, murder, and kidnapping. However, a consultation with an experienced New Jersey expungement attorney can give you an idea of whether you're eligible to expunge your record, the best pathway option based on your record, and the advantages of expungement for you.
What Will I Get Back if I Expunge My Record?
You may wonder why you should expunge your record or how it will help you. Expunging your criminal record can reopen many opportunities you may not have realized may be a problem in the future, including educational and career opportunities and even basic rights.
- Getting a Job
Some criminal records, particularly indictable offenses, can keep you from getting the job you want. While New Jersey law prohibits many employers from asking about your criminal history until after the initial application process, many employers can and will ask you about your criminal history after your first interview. Your initial application will ask you about your criminal record for some jobs, like those in law enforcement, the military, or those requiring a security clearance. Your record could immediately knock you out of the running in many cases. Expunging your record will allow you to respond that you have never been arrested or convicted on most job applications.
- Educational Opportunities
While it's unfortunate, an early mistake can sometimes keep you from getting into college or graduate school and can sometimes make you ineligible for scholarships or financial aid, depending on the source. By expunging your record, you can reopen educational doors in your future.
- Obtaining a Loan
Often a criminal record can keep you from obtaining a bank loan such as those for a car or mortgage. It can even keep you from renting an apartment. While your credit record doesn't include your criminal history, it will list your settled or unsettled debts, including court judgments and liens. Moreover, some loan and rental applications will ask you about your criminal record because lenders may consider someone with a criminal record a poor risk. Expungement can eliminate these potential financial issues.
- Regaining Rights
With an indictable offense on your record, you may no longer be able to possess or purchase a weapon, vote, or hold public office. You can also lose your gun ownership rights for conviction of a disorderly persons offense involving domestic violence or some juvenile convictions.
While New Jersey allows you to register to vote once you are no longer in prison or on parole or probation, not every state does. Moreover, in New Jersey, once you expunge a criminal record, you don't need to disclose the expunged offense on your gun permit application. Expunging your New Jersey criminal record can restore all of these rights.
Hire An Experienced New Jersey Expungement Lawyer
New Jersey courts don't require you to have an attorney to expunge your record. However, determining when or if you're eligible and the best path forward can be complex under New Jersey law. A skilled expungement attorney can handle the process quickly and efficiently, restoring your rights as quickly as possible. If you are considering expungement of your record, attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Attorney Lento and the skilled team at the Lento Law Firm have been helping people in New Jersey with criminal defense and expungement for years, and they can help you too. Call the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or contact them online to discuss your options.