Getting your criminal record expunged can wipe away convictions so that employers, law enforcement, or anyone else running a background check will not normally see the charges. Essentially, expungement makes it as if those charges never existed. This can be a powerful tool, so those looking to reap the benefits of expungement should understand how you can get your criminal record expunged.
In New Jersey, expungement happens by filing the proper forms with the court. If your expungement is approved, then the charges, arrest, or other entry on your criminal record will be removed. The process requires applicants to wait the proper amount of time after their conviction, though arrests and charges not leading to a conviction can usually be expunged sooner. Some records cannot be expunged.
For help, call the New Jersey expungement lawyers at Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.
Steps to Expunge a Criminal Record in New Jersey
Getting your record expunged is sometimes automatic, and it sometimes means waiting years before you even get the opportunity to file. When you do eventually file, the process can be a bit complicated, so it is best to work with an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer.
Find Information About Your Case
For you to get a case expunged, you need to know your case number. You can look up that information on the court websites, or our attorneys can help you find it. It should also be on any charging documents or papers you got from the court when you first faced charges.
You will also need to know other information about your case to know whether it qualifies for expungement, how long you have to wait, and what information to put on the forms you submit with the court. This can include the date of the final disposition of the case (i.e., the date of sentencing or acquittal). You will also need to know what the charges were for (name and code section) and what level of offense you were charged with.
This might seem simple, but you also need to know what happened in your case: Were charges dropped? Were you convicted? What penalties did you face? Was the disposition deferred? Were they adult or juvenile charges? Many people who are not lawyers are not always clear on what outcome their case had, especially if it was a technical matter like a deferred disposition.
Get a Lawyer
Working with a lawyer makes expungement a lot easier. Our attorneys already know how to get records expunged, and we have the tools, experience, and resources to deal with any potential surprise issues in your case. If you try to handle your expungement on your own, you could be denied and end up having to start the process over.
Serve Your Sentence and Pay the Fines
If you were convicted, you usually need to serve your whole sentence before expungement is allowed. You also have to pay all fines before you can get a case expunged, so make sure to serve out all of the required penalties and punishments associated with your conviction first.
If you were not convicted, then this would not apply to you.
Wait the Required Time
After that, you need to wait the required amount of time based on the charges you faced. Usually, that waiting period is 5 years for an indictable offense (the NJ equivalent of a felony). There is also a 5-year waiting period for disorderly persons offenses (the NJ equivalent of a misdemeanor) That 5-year waiting period does not start until all of your fines are paid and your sentences are completed.
File for Expungement
Finally, you can actually file for expungement. New Jersey provides some information about expungement and a sample form to file with the court. Altogether, the filing would include the petition, where you explain who you are, what you were convicted of, what the specific charges were, when the conviction happened, when you finished your sentence, and what you want expunged. This filing would also include a suggested order that you are essentially giving the court to sign and effectuate the expungement.
When you file, you might request a hearing. If the judge finds a hearing is necessary, the judge will order it.
Attend Any Hearings
If you do go to a hearing, you should really have a lawyer represent you. This might be your one chance to explain what happened, answer any questions, and convince the judge that your expungement should be ordered. If you fail to make a compelling case at the hearing and present any information the court was missing, they might not take the time to reschedule a second hearing and might just dismiss your petition entirely.
Distribute the Granted Expungement Order
If the judge does grant your expungement, it will not necessarily be distributed automatically. It will be up to you to send the granted order to the various record-keepers in the state, such as the prosecutor’s office, the police, and the correctional institution where you served any time. They will then be able to follow the order and take the steps necessary to make the records of your arrest and conviction go away.
What You Can and Cannot Expunge in NJ
Under NJ law, you can expunge most convictions for indictable offenses and disorderly persons offenses. Those are the names New Jersey uses instead of “felonies” and “misdemeanors,” but understand that this essentially covers most crimes.
On top of convictions, you can also expunge arrests that did not result in charges or that resulted in dismissal or acquittal. It is important to know the status of your case and whether it had a “final” disposition or not because this will be an important part of your expungement request.
You cannot, however, expunge everything. Special “clean slate” expungements can expunge more than one offense at once, but you usually can only expunge one indictable crime or a maximum of 3 disorderly persons offenses. You usually cannot expunge driving offenses like DWI, as traffic offenses are part of a separate record. You also cannot expunge most serious violent crimes like robbery, kidnapping, and homicide.
Call Our NJ Expungement Lawyers Today
For help filing for expungement, call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych today at (609) 616-4956.