Getting your criminal record expunged can give you a new lease on life. Expungement allows your criminal record to be eliminated – or at least allows certain crimes to be removed from your criminal record. This helps prevent them from being used against you when it comes to sentencing re-offenders or applying for jobs and benefits in your life outside of jail.
Our attorneys can help you understand what crimes are eligible for expungement, how to go about getting your charges expunged, what barriers to expungement you might face, and why you might want to get your record expunged. While expungement can often be done on your own without a lawyer’s help, it can be a complex system that is hard to understand, and court officials cannot help you in many cases. Instead, consider working with our attorneys for help expunging your record.
The New Jersey expungement lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych are available for a free case review; call us today at (609) 616-4956.
How Expungement Can Help You in New Jersey
New Jersey has quite a robust expungement system, allowing all kinds of criminal records to be sealed or eliminated entirely. There are many downsides to having a criminal record, but once you have served your debt to society, it is hard to justify the ongoing stigmas and penalties that you might face. New Jersey’s expungement options allow those records to be cleared to prevent these issues from following you around as you seek to move on with your life.
One of the main reasons that people seek expungement for old offenses is that they no longer reflect accurately on who they are. Having a criminal record can lead to stigmas that you are dangerous or untrustworthy, and turning to our New Jersey expungement lawyers for help eliminating that record can be a breath of fresh air.
More concretely, your criminal record can make it hard to get a job or apply for loans. While many employers are becoming “Ban the Box” employers who do not ask whether an applicant has a criminal record, many employers – especially in sensitive industries – will immediately eliminate any candidates with criminal records. If your record has been properly expunged, then you can say “no” to the question of whether you have a criminal record.
However, you typically have to pay all debts and fines, serve all sentences, and apply for expungement – which is only available for certain offenses.
What Kinds of Crimes Can Be Expunged in New Jersey?
Expungement applies broadly, allowing many kinds of offenses to be expunged. However, our New Jersey expungement lawyers are somewhat limited in that the law does not allow for expungement of certain kinds of offenses.
New Jersey generally divides its crimes into “indictable offenses” and “disorderly persons offenses.” Disorderly persons offenses are further subdivided into normal “disorderly persons offenses” and “petty disorderly persons offenses.” These names are essentially the New Jersey equivalent of what other states and federal law call “felonies” (indictable offenses), “misdemeanors” (disorderly persons offenses), and “violations” or “summary offenses” (petty disorderly persons offenses). Indictable crimes can result in over a year in prison while disorderly persons offenses have a 6-month maximum sentence and petty disorderly persons have a 30-day maximum sentence. There are also violations of local ordinances, which often go by similar names across the country.
You can expunge some crimes from each of these categories, but there are special rules for each:
The lightest of these offenses is ordinance violations. Essentially any ordinance violation can be expunged after 2 years of finishing all sentences and payments, according to N.J.S.A. § 2C:52-4 as long as you do not have more than 2 disorderly persons offenses on your record.
There are some laws that restrict multiple expungements, but these do not apply to ordinance violations; you can get as many of these charges expunged as you want.
Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses
All petty disorderly persons offenses can get expunged under the same rules as other disorderly persons offenses listed below.
Disorderly Persons Offenses
All petty disorderly persons offenses and disorderly persons offenses can be expunged after 5 years, with some restrictions, under N.J.S.A. § 2C:52-3.
First, you cannot get these expunged if you also have a conviction for an indictable crime. So if your only offenses are for disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses, then you can get your record expunged.
Second, you cannot get disorderly persons offenses expunged if you have more than 5 of them on your record (petty or otherwise). Basically, too many crimes – even low-level ones – makes it harder to get your record expunged.
There is an exception, however, if there are 5 offenses that all came from the same day of conviction or from a course of conduct committed closely together in time. Applications for these expungements are allowed to go to a judge’s discretion rather than being automatically barred.
Some further caveats to these rules are that marijuana convictions and drug paraphernalia convictions involving hypodermic needles do not count against the total limit of 5 convictions.
You can get one indictable crime expunged after 5 years, with some restrictions, according to N.J.S.A. § 2C:52-2.
First, note that you can only get expungement with 1 indictable crime on your record. Any more than that and you cannot get expungement.
Second, you also cannot get the criminal conviction expunged if you have more than three disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions on your record.
Again, both of these restrictions have an exception for more than 1 crime or more than 3 disorderly persons convictions if they all came from the same day of conviction or the same course of conduct, all closely related in time.
Also again, marijuana convictions do not count as previous convictions.
Can You Get Traffic Offenses Expunged in New Jersey?
Many traffic violations are considered disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions. This would make one think that the same rules apply, but traffic violations are treated separately. Essentially, the State of New Jersey does not like to expunge records when the presence of the record is more important to society than the expungement, and traffic records are a good example of that. As such, no traffic violation records can be expunged.
Can You Get DUI/DWIs Expunged in New Jersey?
You cannot get any traffic violations expunged, including DUI/DWI convictions. DUI/DWIs might be legally considered disorderly persons offenses, but they cannot be expunged.
Even so, previous DUI/DWI convictions usually “reset” after 10 years and no longer count as “prior offenses” for sentencing purposes. Moreover, most employers, licensing institutions, and insurance companies do not look at convictions older than a certain number of years for employment decisions, CDL qualifications, insurance rates, and other issues. As such, expungement is essentially unnecessary for DUI/DWIs.
Reasons for Denying Expungement Applications in New Jersey
Under NJ law, an expungement application is filed with the court, and a judge has to hear the application for expungement before granting it. As such, it is up to a judge’s discretion to grant relief or not – but they usually will grant the petition if all requirements are met.
There are, however, explicit grounds under N.J.S.A. § 2C:52-14 to deny expungement, plus other reasons a court might deny your petition:
Generally, you cannot get your record expunged until you have served the full sentence on your charges. Subsection (a) of the above statute says petitions should be denied if prerequisites like this are not met.
You have to serve the full sentence and pay all fines or else the court can deny your application under subsection (a). However, the court does have some leeway to grant the petition anyway if the only thing outstanding is a fine under this section and this section.
Usually, there must be some specific hardship or “compelling circumstances” you can point to to show why you did not pay your fine. If the expungement is granted anyway, any outstanding fines, restitution, or other financial obligations can be converted from criminal fines to a civil judgment owed to the State Treasury.
5-Year Waiting Period Not Met
You usually need to wait 5 years (2 for ordinance violations) before expunging a criminal offense or disorderly persons offense. Courts will deny the application if you did not wait the full 5 years, but there are some exceptions.
If you have waited at least 3 years after your disorderly persons conviction and there are “compelling circumstances” that the court should grant the expungement early, the court may do so. The court is specifically permitted to look at factors like age at the time of the offense, your finances, and “other relevant circumstances.” However, a prosecutor can object on various grounds.
This 3-out-of-5-year rule applies to disorderly persons offenses; the same rule applies for indictable offense applications if you wait 4 out of the 5 years.
The Records are Too Important
Subsection (b) gives grounds to deny an expungement application if the record is too important to expunge it. This usually requires the party objecting to the expungement to provide good evidence as to why the record should remain. This kind of petition is likely to come from a victim or some sort of professional licensing board rather than the government.
Ongoing Litigation with the State
Subsection (d) gives grounds to deny a petition when the defendant seeking expungement is currently involved in civil litigation with the state over the conduct in question. For example, if they are being sued in civil court for vandalism or wasting government resources, the conviction cannot be expunged in the meantime.
Too Many Crimes
While petitions are not immediately barred for previous convictions and there are rules allowing judges to hear petitions for more than 5 disorderly persons offenses or more than 1 indictable crime – or more than 1 indictable crime alongside more than 3 disorderly persons offenses – the judge does not have to grant that petition. If you believe that your offenses were all tied to one event or issue, but the judge sees them as distinct or separate, then they might deny the expungement. In these cases where a hearing will be important, you should always have a New Jersey expungement lawyer with you to fight for your expungement petition.
What Crimes Cannot Be Expunged in New Jersey?
Under NJ law, there is a list of crimes that simply cannot be expunged. Usually, the argument is that these offenses are very serious, so the criminal record must stand, and expungement cannot be allowed. This makes sense when looking at the list, as most of the crimes involve some type of serious violence or sexual violence.
List of Crimes
Some of the crimes you cannot seek expungement for include murder, sexual assault, human trafficking, sex crimes against minors, arson, child pornography offenses, robbery, and treason, among others. You also cannot get a conspiracy charge expunged involving one of these offenses.
Keep in mind that many sex crimes involve sex offender registration. So not only are the crimes not able to be expunged, but offenders will face additional punishment in the form of registration beyond the time they finish serving their “debt to society.”
As mentioned, traffic offenses also cannot be expunged. These are not necessarily very serious offenses, but rather the records related to traffic violations are important for employers, insurance companies, and others to have access to. The bias against someone for being a bad driver is also not as bad as the bias against them for being a criminal, and so there is less societal concern for getting these records expunged.
Crimes By Public Officials
Certain elected officials, officeholders, and government employees cannot get their records expunged if their crime was related to their office or service. For example, a mayor convicted of crimes involving bribery cannot get the record expunged.
Drug and Alcohol Crimes by Doctors
You cannot get your crimes expunged if they were related to drugs or alcohol and you are a licensed physician or a podiatrist. The goal here is to ensure that hospitals, practices, and other care providers know about addiction, drunk driving, or misuse of prescriptions committed by other practitioners. For these purposes, crimes involving marijuana or hashish in amounts that are legal today do not count and can be expunged. You can also seek expungement under “compelling circumstances” if the crime is of the third or fourth degree, but this is not available for second or first degree crimes.
Call Our New Jersey Expungement Attorneys Today
If you are seeking expungement for a criminal record, get a free case review from the New Jersey expungement lawyers at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych by calling (609) 616-4956 today.