Having a criminal history is often a hindrance which holds people back from pursuing their career goals, prevents them from finding apartments and receiving mortgages, and can prevent them from receiving government aid and assistance. People often complain that they are being punished for the second time for an incident that may have occurred decades ago. Fortunately, there is a legal device that can alleviate some of these problems, known as an expungement.
An expungement order isolates and removes a person’s criminal record. Not only does an expungement erase certain charges you may have been convicted of, but if you are granted an expungement, then all records of your apprehensions, arrest, detention, trial, and disposition in either the criminal or juvenile justice system will be erased.
The criminal justice system can often seem unfair, even those who are not convicted of a crime, but were arrested will have a criminal record, despite their innocence. That is why many New Jersey residents turn to expungements in an attempt to clear their name and restore their name.
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 Offenses can be Expunged?
The New Jersey expungement law states in detail who is eligible for an expungement. You should review the currently applicable provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 through N.J.S.A. 2C:52-32. Generally, the following can be expunged:
Disorderly persons offenses
Municipal ordinance violations
Juvenile delinquency offenses
Young drug offender records
Arrests no convictions
It is important as a preliminary matter that you determine if you are qualified for an expungement. Because of the complexity and intricacy of the expungement statutes, it is wise to work with an experienced attorney who can determine your eligibility.
How do you Apply for an Expungement?
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.
Our Atlantic County Criminal Attorneys Can Help You with Your Expungement
Filing for an expungement is a technical and multi-faceted process where it is easy to make an error or mistake if you are unfamiliar or uncertain as to the next step. The experienced criminal defense and expungement lawyers of the Law Firm of John J. Zarych are dedicated to fighting for people accused of or convicted of a crime. To schedule a free and confidential expungement consultation call us at (609) 616-4956 or contact us online today.