Can You Seal Your Juvenile Record in New Jersey? Exploring the State’s Laws and Options

  • Criminal Defense

Does a Juvenile Criminal Record Stick With You for the Rest of Your Life?

Whether you have a disorderly person’s offense on your record or something a bit more serious, past criminal convictions can stand in your way in the future. From getting the job you want to living free of any societal stigma, there are certainly reasons you might want to erase criminal issues from your past.

If you’re the parent of a juvenile who has found himself or herself in trouble, you may also wonder if the conviction will impact college chances or other choices in the future. Understanding whether sealing juvenile records — or even better, expunging criminal records — is possible can offer a lot of peace of mind.

Our short guide to expunging juvenile records below provides some basic answers. If you’re facing a situation that makes expunging or sealing juvenile records important, reach out to the Hernandez Law Firm for help.

What Does It Mean to Seal a Juvenile Record?

When a record is sealed, the information about the juvenile’s criminal history is held confidential. That means that members of the public, such as colleges or employers, that do a background check would not see the charges or convictions in question. It does not mean, however, that the person no longer has a criminal record — it simply seriously limits the times that information would be accessible. In certain cases, law enforcement or medical providers might be able to request or view the records, for example.

It is possible to seal certain juvenile records in the state of New Jersey. To do so, individuals can rely on one of two paths.

Join the Military

If a young person can document that they have joined one of the branches of the armed forces and that they are following through with that action, they may be able to successfully request that their juvenile records be sealed.

Good Behavior

When a young person has completed any sentence related to a conviction, they can wait a period of time before filing a motion or otherwise requesting to have their records sealed. During those years, the individual must keep a clean record and not have any other charges or convictions.

What Does Expungement Mean?

Another, potentially preferred option, is expungement. This involves effectively erasing the criminal history altogether.

A big difference between sealing records and expunging records is that sealed records can still have an impact on future criminal defense outcomes. If the person with the sealed record is convicted in the future of another crime, for example, the order sealing the previous orders can be voided.

With an expungement, past expunged crimes do not typically weigh on outcomes in future criminal matters.

Can Juvenile Records Be Expunged?

It is possible to expunge juvenile records in New Jersey, though it’s not possible in all cases.

When Can You Get a Record Expunged and How Long Does It Take?

As with sealing records, you must wait a certain amount of time after the conviction and serving any sentence related to it. You also can’t have been convicted of any other crimes, including disorderly person’s offenses, during that time period.

You also need to meet a few other requirements, such as not ever having an adult conviction expunged or having adult convictions dismissed in certain cases.

The criminal charges associated with the conviction(s) you want expunged also matter. Violent crimes such as murder, manslaughter, sexual assault, or rape can’t be expunged. However, crimes such as burglary, drug possession, shoplifting, trespassing, simple assault, and vandalism might be expunged.

How Does Expungement Work?

Expungement is a legal process that involves filing with the courts. Some possible steps that might be required in your case include:

  • Requesting a background check. If you don’t have certain details about your arrests and convictions, you may need to get a criminal history report and fingerprint check from the state police. You will need specific details about your past criminal history to correctly request expungement, and it’s often a better-safe-than-sorry proposition. Leaving off information can result in an improper and partial expungement.
  • Filing a Petition for Expungement. This paperwork requires all the details mentioned above and is typically filed in the county where you were taken into custody. This document also requires a signature verified by a notary.
  • Attending a hearing. You may need to attend a hearing — or have an attorney attend one on your behalf. Typically, the hearing is scheduled by the court for around one or two months after your petition is received.

This is not an all-inclusive list. The process also includes mailing certified copies of documents to a variety of agencies involved in your criminal case. If law enforcement officers or someone else objects to your records being expunged, they may argue against it. You will have a chance to answer questions and offer your arguments, though it may be in your best interest to have an experienced attorney helping you with this process.

Contact a Criminal Law Attorney for Help

Having juvenile records sealed or expunged can make a big difference in many future outcomes. Not all records can be sealed or expunged, so it’s important to reach out to a criminal law attorney to find out what your options might be.

An attorney can also help you with the process of requesting that records be sealed or expunged. To find out how the Hernandez Law Firm, P.C., can help with your case, give us a call at 732-582-5076.

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