In December of 2017 New Jersey’s then-Governor Chris Christie signed off on several pieces of legislation to help those with criminal histories turn their lives around and become more productive members of society. For example, Governor Christie signed off on a bill barring employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history during the initial job application process. Around that same time, he also enacted a law to alter the requirements for individuals to be eligible for an expungement of their criminal records. Those changes took effect as of October 1, 2018.
An expungement of criminal records generally has the effect of causing the arrest, conviction and/or any related proceedings to be deemed not to have occurred. In most cases, a person who has had her records expunged may answer “no” to any questions relating to whether an arrest, conviction, or any such proceeding occurred. There are a few exceptions. For instance, in a job application for a position with the court (judicial branch); in an application for another expungement, or to a court in relation to accepting the person into a treatment or other diversion program, the fact of an expungement and the criminal history may still need to be disclosed. However, the records are not made available for any type of background check in other instances (such as for private employment).
The new changes to New Jersey’s expungement laws include several significant alterations in the eligibility requirements for expungements. For instance, an individual used to have to wait 10 years to expunge a felony conviction. That has now been reduced to 6 years. There is also an early pathway for such expungements if the applicant can establish that the expungement is in the public interest, and in consideration of the nature of the offense and the character of the applicant. That early pathway was available previously, and remains in place with a waiting period of only 5 years. Also, the waiting period for expunging juvenile offenses was also reduced from 5 years to 3 years.
Further, the new changes allow for an expungement of up to 4 disorderly persons offenses – previously the maximum was 3 offenses. Further, if there is a felony conviction, the applicant may also be eligible for an expungement if there are up to 3 disorderly persons convictions. (Previously the law only permitted an expungement if there were up to 2 such convictions.)
Also, the time period for an expungement previously did not start running until all penalties had been satisfied. This means that if there was jail time, probation, and fines assessed, then the time period would not run until the date the last penalty was completed. Now, if fines are still outstanding, a person may still be eligible for an expungement as long as the applicant continues to make required payments.
These new changes in the law allow people to actually turn their lives around and become more productive citizens. One of the biggest challenges for people with criminal histories is that they are unable to obtain gainful employment because of their criminal records, and thus are more likely to return to crime as their only option. These new laws will help to change that pattern so that people can move on and improve their situations.
The attorneys at McLaughlin & Nardi, LLC are experienced with expungement laws and can advise and assist clients with expungements in New Jersey. To learn more about what we may be able to do to help, please visit our website, or contact one of our New Jersey lawyers by e-mail or telephone at (973) 890-0004.