New Jersey law provides a “fresh start” or “clean slate” to people who made a mistake in the past, but turned their lives around and become a productive citizen by effectively clearing their records of arrests and convictions. These are called in New Jersey “expungements.”
Why Get an Expungment?
Expungements remove the obstacles which a criminal record can place on getting many jobs. An expungement allows someone to legally say an arrest or conviction never happened.
It is routine today for employers to do criminal background checks on job applicants – or even current employees. An expungement removes this as an obstacle to employment. (There are exceptions – for instance, the convictions must still be disclosed in applications for jobs with the judiciary or law enforcement, or to become a licensed attorney; the conviction may not be a bar, but it must be disclosed in these circumstances.) Arrests and convictions can keep an applicant from getting a job, or cause a current employee to be fired. Many professional licensing boards, such as for nursing, will reject applicants with certain criminal records. An arrest or conviction could cause an application to college or graduate school to be rejected. Many sports or community organizations reject volunteers with arrests or convictions. A criminal record may keep a person from adopting a child. A criminal record can also hurt the chances of joining the military. Finally, it removes the stigma of a criminal record from a good, productive citizen.
What New Jersey Convictions Can be Expunged, and When?
Most New Jersey crimes can be expunged.
Major Convictions. New Jersey expungement law allows convictions for major criminal offenses (known as “crimes” or “felonies”), which are not excepted by law, to be expunged 10 years after the later of the conviction, final payment of fines, completion of probation or parole, or release from prison, provided the person keeps a clean record. In some very limited circumstances this time may be shortened.
Minor Convictions. Disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses (sometimes called “misdemeanors”) can be expunged 5 years, provided the person committed no other crimes or no more than three disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses. Convictions for drunk driving are not criminal, they are traffic offenses so they cannot be expunged.
Drug Offenses. Possession of drugs for personal use can generally be expunged. However, selling or distributing drugs, or possessing them to sell, cannot, unless the amounts were 25 grams or less of marijuana, 5 grams or less of hashish, or any drug if the conviction was of no more than the third degree.
Ordinances. Violations of any local or other government ordinance can be expunged after 2 years, if the person had no other conviction of crimes or no more than two disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses.
Arrests Without Conviction. Arrests which did not result in conviction can be expunged at any time. Remember that any guilty plea or plea bargain requires the judge to find the defendant was guilty.
Juvenile Offenses. Generally juvenile offenses can be expunged, provided the crimes could be expunged if committed by an adult, after 5 years without conviction of a crime or disorderly person offense. Possession of drugs by a juvenile for personal use can be expunged after 1 year.
What Cannot be Expunged?
Most crimes can be expunged, but some are excluded by New Jersey’s expungement law.
Many major crimes cannot be expunged. These include murder, manslaughter and criminal homicide (except certain death by auto convictions); treason; anarchy, terrorism and possession of weapons of mass destruction; kidnapping; rape and most sex crimes, and all sex crimes against minors, and selling or manufacturing child pornography; arson; jury tampering; false imprisonment; perjury and false swearing; robbery; human trafficking; endangering the welfare of a child and promoting child prostitution. Conspiring or attempting any of these crimes, or aiding or concealing anyone else cannot be expunged. Crimes committed by government employees or officeholders which “touch” on their office also cannot be expunged.
McLaughlin & Nardi’s experienced expungement attorneys assist people obtain expungements throughout the state of New Jersey. To obtain more information, visit our website, please call (973) 890-0004 or e-mail us.