A criminal record may feel like a heavy burden that holds your future hostage. Whether you want to pursue a higher education, are seeking a job, need a loan or mortgage, or even just want to rent an apartment, a criminal record has the tendency to put road blocks in almost every area of your life, even if it has been years since you were convicted. It is easy to feel frustrated as your hopes and dreams are halted. However, under New Jersey law, there is opportunity to start fresh and pursue opportunities that were once out of reach. You may be eligible for a criminal record expungement.
If you or a loved one is looking to have a crime expunged from your criminal record in South Jersey, contact our Atlantic City expungement lawyers today at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. Our criminal defense and expungement lawyers offer free consultations. Call (609) 616-4956 today for your consultation.
How Does Criminal Record Expungement Work?
Here in New Jersey, in some instances the law allows for expungement in past criminal convictions. This means that prior arrests and convictions can be permanently removed from your criminal record which makes future background checks far less anxiety ridden and tedious than they were before. Once an arrest or convictions has been expunged, there is no longer a requirement disclose it. Of course, this is not an option for all crimes, but there is a chance that your conviction might be eligible for expungement. If you are eligible, we are here to help guide you through the expungement process.
Basically, expungement of your criminal record is available ten years after your most recent conviction, payment of fines, completion of probation or parole, or release from prison. In those ten years, you must be free from arrests or convictions for any other crimes. There is are exceptions for disorderly persons or petty disorderly person offenses; as long as there have not been any arrests or convictions more than twice in the ten-year period, you could still be eligible for expungement. Therefore, if you have maintained a “clean slate” within those ten years, you could be eligible for expungement.
Getting Your Criminal Record Expunged in Atlantic City
Starting on February 1, 2018, New Jersey law will make expungement much easier to attain. It’s possible to file a petition within ten years after arrest or conviction, if you meet certain requirements.
First, you may be eligible to file a petition and have your record expunged less than ten years after your last payment of a criminal fine if you have a “clean slate” and the court believes that you have stayed current with your payment plan to the best of your ability. Even if the terms and conditions of the payment plan were not totally satisfied, the court could still expunge your record if circumstances beyond your control prevented you from fulfilling this obligation. The court takes into consideration your age at the time of conviction or sentencing, and it may also examine other outside circumstances that made it difficult to stay current with payments. If the court finds that you completed the payment to the best of your ability, as circumstances allowed, then your record less than ten years after arrest or conviction has the potential to be expunged.
Second, there is opportunity for expungement if it’s been between five and ten years after your most recent arrest, conviction, payment of fines, completion of probation or parole, or release from prison (whichever of these happens last). In this case, you may be eligible if you have been free of arrest or conviction for a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense. The court will look at your behavior since release and weigh that against the severity of the crime you committed. If a court decides that expungement is in your best interest and will be not be a harm to society, your record could be expunged less than ten years after release.
What are the Benefits of an Expungement?
As briefly discussed above, a person who has been arrested, detained, put on trial or convicted can potentially face significant challenges even after they have been released from detention. Those who have gone through the criminal justice system often face seemingly insurmountable challenges because of an indiscretion in their past. Indeed, lawmakers and advocates have argued for more expansive expungement laws because of the impact a criminal record has. An expungement can benefit people in the following ways:
- Job Applications – One of the biggest challenges for people with a criminal record is finding gainful employment. Even those who have a college degree or even an advanced degree can find that their criminal record limits their career opportunities. Most employers will require a criminal background check, which can keep those with a record of receiving positions. An expungement can alleviate this hurdle and allow those with records to continue their career goals.
- Housing – Many landlords will conduct a background check similar to the background check that a prospective employer will conduct. Even if there has been a substantial amount of time between your application for an apartment and your offense, landlords have routinely denied housing applications on this basis.
- Loans – In addition to creating a problem for those who are looking for apartments, a criminal record can also impede your ability to apply for and be granted loans, including home mortgages. Banks and lenders often preclude or even deny those who have criminal records.
An expungement can be a way to remove all of these challenges. If you apply for and are granted an expungement the New Jersey police will remove your information from all of their systems, as well as update the FBI, which will also update their systems to reflect “no record.” The effect of having an expungement granted allows you to truthfully answer that the arrest or conviction never occurred. However, while this may be gratifying, the real effect is that it allows those who have served their time and have since changed their lives a fair and equal opportunity to live their life.
What Crimes Can be Expunged in Atlantic County?
You must keep in mind that there are some crimes for which expungement is not an option. These crimes are among the most serious offenses including murder, manslaughter, treason, kidnapping, rape, arson, perjury, robbery, and conspiracy. It is not in society’s interest to allow their expungement because of their severity and wanton disregard for the wellbeing of others.
Also, if you are a public official under the government of the State of New Jersey, your past arrests and convictions are not eligible for expungement. Most drug trafficking or distribution convictions are also ineligible, except if they involve marijuana or hashish, or if it is in society’s best interest to expunge your record. The vast majority of offenses, excluding the most severe, are eligible for expungement.
How Do you Apply for an Expungement in Atlantic County, NJ?
Those with a criminal record often would like to have their past stay behind them, however, applying for an expungement is not exactly a process that can be done over morning coffee.
To begin if you are eligible for an expungement, then you will have to file a Petition for expungement in the Superior Court of the county where your arrest or prosecution took place. This requires that you request a State Police Criminal History Record unless you already have all the necessary information about your arrest, charges, and dispositions. After you have located all of your records, you will file the Petition for Expungement which will state that you are requesting an Expungement Order. Additionally, it will state why you qualify for an expungement. You will then be required to sign a Verification page in the presence of a Notary Public.
Next, you will receive and will be required to fill out the Order for Hearing, which is used by the judge to schedule a hearing. You will then be required to fill out the Expungement Order. Subsequently, you will have to file and serve the forms to:
- The Attorney General of New Jersey
- The Superintendent of State Police Expungement Unit
- The County Prosecutor
- The Clerk of the municipal court if a municipal court heard the matter
- The Chief or head of the police department where the offense was committed
- The Chief law enforcement officer of any other law enforcement agency of the state that participated in the arrest.
- The Warden or superintendent of any institution in which you were incarcerated.
- The County Probation Division should be provided a copy if you were granted a conditional discharge, enrolled into the Pretrial Intervention Program, enrolled in a juvenile diversion program (juvenile conference committee or intake service conference), granted a deferred disposition, performed community service, owed fines or restitution or you served a term of probation.
- The Division of Criminal Justice, Records and Identification Unit should be provided a copy if your case was processed through the State Grand Jury.
- The County Family Division should be provided a copy if you are requesting the expungement of any juvenile delinquency matters.
After all of these forms are sent you will then go to the hearing where you will go before a judge who will either grant or deny your expungement. In the event that your expungement order is granted then you will be required to distribute your finalized expungement order that is signed by the judge to all of the above-mentioned parties.
If this was confusing for you, take into consideration that this does not reflect all of the nuances and procedural issues that go along with these steps. In addition, because the above-mentioned parties are informed of your potential expungement, then are entitled to appear in court and argue why your record should not be expunged. With all of these complicated steps and the potential that your order could be denied because of missing one or not having an advocate with you in court, it is always a good idea to begin your expungement process by working with an attorney.
Atlantic City Expungement Lawyers
As stated above, in order to begin the expungement process, the court requires that you file a petition. If the court approves this petition, your record may be expunged. Because this process can be intimidating and tedious it is important to seek the guidance of an experienced professional. Attorneys at The Law Offices of John J. Zarych. have a history of guiding many people through this process and helping them move start fresh. We will help you determine whether you are eligible for expungement and we will zealously advocate for you throughout the entire process. If you are in need of any assistance, please contact us about a free consultation.