What is an expungement?
A. When a person is arrested, or charged with any non-traffic offense, that person gets a criminal record. Sometimes being issued a summons or being taken into custody can result in a record. At a minimum, there is a record of an arrest. If the person is later convicted, then the person has a record of both an arrest and a conviction. These records include complaints, warrants, commitments, DNA, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, rap sheets, and judicial dockets records. Prospective employers’ insurance companies, landlords, adoption agencies, and prospective creditors can access these types of records. Upon successfully obtaining an expungment, the Court issues an Order which would essentially state that the offense would be deemed not to have occurred. Therefore, a background check through the New Jersey State Police or through the FBI would indicate that there is “no record.” Additionally, after you expunge your criminal record, you are legally entitled to state that the arrest or conviction never happened. However, it should be noted that the FBI shares your records with other agencies. There I no guarantee that those other agencies would adjust their records after you obtain an expungement of your record.
Are expunged criminal records destroyed?
A. No. Expunged records are segregated, not destroyed. That is, they are moved to special locations for expunged records. When ordinary record searches are made, records kept in these special locations are not accessed. Thus the results of this ordinary search will be a return of “No Record Information.”
The procedure that New Jersey courts follow once an expungement has been granted is detailed in a document called an “Administrative Directive.”
The New Jersey expungement statutes contain provision under which expungements are not effective. Therefore, the records are accessible under limited circumstances such as when a person is applying for employment with a law enforcement agency, corrections agency, or the judicial branch of government.
In what situations are expungements effective?
A. There are many. Employment applications to be a teacher, nurse, real estate broker, stock broker, banker, hospital worker, computer programmer, taxi driver, barber, or anything else, so long as it is not in law enforcement, corrections, or the court system. Applications to colleges, universities or to obtain professional licenses (other than to practice law) similarly need not recite court proceedings that have been expunged. After the court expunges the record, it no longer exists. You even don’t need to list on an application to adopt a child or to obtain a gun permit.
Does this mean that I can never get a job in law enforcement, or in the court system, or that I can never become a lawyer?
A. No. it just means that you have to divulge the prior arrest, charges, convictions, etc.
If I am placed under oath, am I committing perjury if I deny the existence of expunged information?
A. It depends. If you are under oath in a New Jersey, in a matter that is not a federal matter, then you need not recite the expunged arrest, charges, etc., however, that the information is still available to New Jersey officials in certain instances.
I am not a United States Citizen. Is there anything special I need to know about expungements?
Non-citizens applying for entry into the United States, or seeking naturalization, will likely need to divulge arrests and convictions, even after they have been expunged.
Should an application for expungement be made after a person gets a conditional discharge?
A. Yes. With a conditional discharge the charges are dismissed, therefore, there is no record of a conviction. However the original arrest is still on the record.
My convictions were expunged. Now I want to apply for a gun permit. Should I divulge those expunged matters on my New Jersey firearms application?
How long must I wait before I can expunge my conviction?
A. All convictions require a waiting time before the court will let you expunge your record. Dismissals also will require a waiting
Waiting Times in New Jersey Before Convictions and Some Dismissals Can Be Expunged
|Nature of Conviction||Waiting Time|
|Crime (Felony)||Ordinarily, ten years. However, the court will consider an application to expunge a felony conviction after five years…|
|Disorderly Persons Offense (Misdemeanor)||Five years|
|Petty Disorderly Persons Offense (Misdemeanor)||Five years|
|Juvenile Adjudication||Five years, or period for equivalent offense if committed by an adult, whichever is less|
|Municipal Ordinance||Two years|
|Young Drug Offender (21 years of age or younger when offense was committed)||One year|
|Dismissal following successful completion of diversion (PTI, Conditional Discharge, or Conditional Dismissal)||Six months|
|Not guilty by reason of insanity, or not guilty for lack of mental capacity||These dispositions cannot be expunged|
|Final Restraining Order arising from domestic violence situation (“DVRO”)||Records relating to restraining orders cannot be expunged because restraining orders are civil in nature, not criminal.|
|Dismissal, Other||No waiting time.|
|Motor vehicle offense, DWI||Cannot be expunged.|
Do these times run from the date of the offense?
A. No. The times run from the date that the judge imposes sentence, the date you pay all of your fines, the date you successfully complete parole or probation, or the date you complete your jail or prison sentence, whichever comes last. A law that took effect on March 13, 2010, changed this requirement somewhat. Under this new law, the court may relax the waiting period relating to payment of fines if the court finds that fines were paid substantially on the schedule specified by the sentencing judge, or if we satisfy the court that compelling circumstances prevented you from paying your fines.
How many times can you apply for an expungement?
There is no limit to the number of times that a person can apply for and receive an expungement. However, when determining whether a person is eligible to have another expungement, the court looks at the person’s entire past criminal history.
What is the turnaround time and does the client need to appear in Court?
The process takes about four months and in most cases, an appearance is not required unless an objection is made to the application.