The Ins and Outs of Expungement Laws in New Jersey: How to Clear Your Criminal Record

  • Criminal Defense

Are You Really Stuck With a Criminal Record Forever?

Criminal charges can have long-lasting consequences, making it more difficult to get a job or fit into a social circle, among other things. A criminal record can also impact your rights.

Understandably, these long-term issues aren’t usually at the forefront of someone’s mind when they are first facing charges. This can be a frightening process, especially if you’re facing potential time in jail or prison. A New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help you during this trying time, ensuring you understand all your options, working to protect your rights, and developing a strategy for your defense.

However, if a conviction does occur, an attorney can work to protect your interest in the future, such as through appeals and expungements.

What Is Expungement?

Expungement is a process that effectively erases your criminal record or seals certain records so they are only available in specific cases to law enforcement.

To receive an expungement, you must go through the courts and receive an order for expungement.

Types of Expungements in New Jersey

There are several types of expungements in New Jersey. The first is the standard expungement discussed in-depth below. Other types include:

  • Clean slate expungements, which are available in some cases to erase an entire criminal record a decade after all penalties have been served and paid
  • Recovery court expungement, which was a previous option for individuals who graduated from recovery programs after being ordered to attend them due to drug charges
  • Marijuana expungement, which is an option related to specific hashish or marijuana charges or convictions
  • Expedited expungements, which can remove arrest records when someone is arrested and charged but is not, ultimately, convicted

Who Is Eligible for Expungement?

In most cases, you are not eligible for expungement until five years after you finish serving any sentence and resolving any outstanding penalties. This includes paying fines and fees and serving probation. The five-year clock on this eligibility starts once you complete the final step in your sentence. There are some exceptions to the five-year rule that an experienced criminal defense attorney can help you understand.

Not all convictions are eligible for this process. For example, convictions for murder, arson, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, or human trafficking cannot be expunged.

How many records you can expunge through the standard process is also limited to up to three disorderly persons offenses and up to one indictable offense.

Steps to Expungement

Talking to a criminal defense attorney who is experienced in the expungement process can help you understand whether your records can be expunged. If you learn that you are a good candidate to apply for expungement, you can expect to go through a lengthy process.

Getting a Copy of Your Entire New Jersey Criminal Record

First, you’ll need to obtain a copy of your criminal record in New Jersey. This provides the information you need to complete the paperwork required to request an expungement.

File Expungement Petition

After gathering the required information, you—or an attorney on your behalf—must file an Expungement Petition. You may also need to provide additional documentation along with the petition to the court.

Your Case Is Reviewed

At this point, a judge is assigned to your case. A hearing date is also set. The hearing date will be set far enough in the future to allow for required processes to occur. However, if the court system in question is backed up, it may be set even further in the future than might be necessary to allow for those processes.

During this time, you are required to serve copies of your petition and attached documents to relevant law enforcement agencies and government entities that may have your criminal record on file. All of these agencies have an opportunity to review your request for expungement and make objections to it if desired.

During a Hearing, a Judge Decides Whether to Grant the Expungement

You may or may not have to be present at this hearing. Your attorney may be able to handle the hearing without you, though you should discuss whether it’s better for your case if you are present.

The judge may hear from others or ask questions for clarification during this hearing before deciding whether or not to grant an expungement. If the decision is to grant the expungement, the court issues an order to that effect.

Your Records are Expunged

That order is then served on all the required agencies that have your criminal records. If you have an expungement attorney, they will handle this process. Once government agencies receive the order, they expunge the relevant records.

It can take up to three months—and, in some cases, longer—for agencies to work through to your expungement order, so you shouldn’t expect criminal records to be expunged overnight.

Do You Need a Lawyer for the Expungement Process?

The expungement process is paperwork-heavy and can be complex. You’re also not guaranteed success, as there are several points in the process where your expungement may be objected to or denied. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you navigate this process and provide guidance and help to increase the chances of a positive outcome.

Find out if you qualify for expungement and work with an experienced legal team throughout the process when you choose the Hernandez Law Firm, P.C. Call 732-582-5076 to set up an appointment to get started on your expungement.

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