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Expunge a Criminal Record in New Jersey
Expunging a Criminal Record in New Jersey
A criminal record is a very dangerous thing to have. It can affect nearly every aspect of an individual's life from schooling to licensing to employment, and beyond. Indeed, in this difficult job market, having a criminal record can greatly narrow the number of opportunities available. There is hope however; New Jersey law provides a method by which an individual can have past mistakes erased from his or her record permanently. This is done through a process known as expungement.
Expungement is not automatic, and not all offenses are expungeable. Nonetheless, the New Jersey Expungement statutes are broad enough that they provide relief to many New Jersey residents and allow them the opportunity to clear their good name.
Determining whether or not someone is eligible to have their record expunged is not exactly a simple task. First, an individual needs to know their complete criminal history, including out of state arrests and convictions as well as minor summons and citations. Once this is done, the offenses on a persons record need to be classified as either disorderly persons offenses (loosely known as misdemeanors), indictable offenses (loosely known as felonies), and municipal ordinances (code violations).
New Jersey expungement law allows up to three disorderly persons offenses to be expunged as long as the person has never been convicted of an indictable offense. In other words, if an individual has never been convicted of a felony, he have his record expunged as long as he does not have more than three misdemeanors. If a person has more than three disorderly persons convictions he cannot have any convictions expunged.
The law also allows one indictable offense to be expunged as long as the person has not been convicted of more than two disorderly persons offenses. One of the nuances of the law is that while the indictable offense can be expunged, the disorderly persons offenses will stay on the persons record. That means that if a person has one felony and one misdemeanor, the felony will be expunged but the misdemeanor will not. This provision doesn't really make sense but nonetheless it is the law of New Jersey.
Expungement cannot typically occur unless certain time limits have passed. Generally, a person must wait a period of ten years before an indictable offense (or felony) can be expunged. With regard to a disorderly persons conviction, the waiting period is five years from the completion of the sentence. With respect to municipal ordinance violations, the waiting period is two years from the completion of the sentence. The key in calculating the time is determining when the sentence was completed. In general, completion of the sentence means the date probation or parole was finished, the date the fine was paid in full, or the day of the sentence.
Obtaining an expungement requires the filing of certain documents. These documents include a Petition for Expungement, an Order Setting Hearing Date, and a Final Order of Expungement. The petition outlines all of the charges an individual ever faced, including out of state arrests and convictions. it is a notarized document that gets filed with the court. This document, along with the Order Setting Hearing Date and Final Order of expungement must be served to all of the courts, police departments, jails, probation offices, etc that ever dealt with any of the cases on the individuals record. The documents must be sent by way of certified mail and proof of mailing must be provided to the court.
If none of the police departments, courts, prosecutors offices, or other officials have any objection to your expungement the judge will sign the expungement order. Once this order is signed, it must be served upon certain parties so that they can expunge your records from their databases. Once this process is complete the records are gone and a heavy burden is lifted. Once the expungement is complete the law allows an individual to act as if the event never occurred. This means that he or she may answer "no" on job applications and other documents that ask if an individual has ever been convicted or arrested.
Please keep in mind that the expungement statute in New Jersey is very nuanced and not always intuitive. As such, the information in this article should be taken as generic and not applicable to any specific situation. A special note should also be taken with respect to immigration. INS does not recognize expungement and events that were expunged must still be disclosed on immigration documents.
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