Is your criminal history damaging your ability to find work or even to find housing? What happened years ago doesn’t have to dictate your future. Arrange to meet with a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer to consider your options for the expungement of your criminal records.
A criminal record can keep you from your educational, personal, and professional goals, but an expungement can open many doors and opportunities. Expungement permanently keeps your criminal record from employers, creditors, landlords, or anyone else snooping into your life.
Expunging a criminal record in New Jersey takes some effort and time, but you shouldn’t let something that happened years ago keep you from finding employment or housing in the present.
Which records can be expunged in New Jersey? What, exactly, does expungement do, and what steps are required? If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will also learn where to find the legal help you will need throughout the expungement process.
Are You Rejected by Employers? Turned Away for Housing?
Across the U.S., more than seventy million people have some kind of criminal record. They are subject to a variety of federal and state laws that restrict their rights, from housing and employment to voting and obtaining a firearm or a driver’s license.
Many of these restrictions are completely unrelated to the original crime or conviction. And with the internet, anyone can instantly conduct a background check on anyone else. If you’re being rejected by employers or turned away for housing, it may be because of your criminal record.
Which Criminal Convictions Cannot Be Expunged?
A New Jersey expungement attorney will review your criminal record, and if you qualify, your attorney will explain the expungement process and begin that process on your behalf. Not all criminal records may be expunged in New Jersey. Convictions cannot be expunged for:
- kidnapping, human trafficking, and false imprisonment
- arson and aggravated arson
- sexual assault
- motor vehicle convictions including DWI
Which Convictions May Be Expunged?
Most other criminal convictions may be expunged. Eligibility will depend on several factors, including the details of your criminal history, the number of charges and convictions, and the types of records you’re seeking to expunge. In New Jersey, you may qualify for expungement if:
- Your conviction was for an “indictable offense” that allows for expungement.
- Your conviction was for a “disorderly persons” charge.
- Your conviction was for the violation of a municipal ordinance.
- You’ve successfully completed a drug court program or court-ordered rehabilitation.
- You were placed under arrest, but the charge was dismissed or you were found not guilty.
(In New Jersey, crimes are not classified as felonies and misdemeanors. Less serious crimes are called “disorderly persons” offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses, and more serious crimes are called “indictable” offenses.)
What Does Expungement Do?
There is a waiting period before you can qualify to have a record expunged, and the waiting period’s length depends on the specific type of criminal record you are seeking to expunge. However, expungement does not mean that your criminal records are completely destroyed.
Instead, expungement removes criminal records from public view when the agencies holding those records receive a court order to “extract and isolate” the records. Police agencies and prosecutors still retain access to your records in case you are charged with a crime in the future.
Which Agencies Maintain Criminal Records?
The agencies that may hold criminal records in this state include the New Jersey State Police; the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office; the county prosecutor’s office, sheriff’s department, and probation department; and the local police department and municipal court.
However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is not subject to the state expungement process. Nevertheless, the New Jersey State Police automatically informs the FBI when your records are expunged, at which time the FBI – usually – seals any records about you that they maintain.
How Can You Start the Expungement Process?
While the length of time expungement takes is different for each person, the best way to begin and expedite the process and to ensure that no misunderstandings or mistakes on your end delay the process is to have the right New Jersey expungement lawyer working for you from the start.
Have some patience, as even the quickest expungements take some time. Your lawyer will have to track down all of the pertinent records and related legal documents.
After locating those documents, preparing the required paperwork – which is quite extensive – and filing the expungement petition, it may be another sixty days until your expungement hearing.
Can Your Expungement Request Be Challenged?
The county prosecutor and the State Police will be notified that you are seeking an expungement. They will conduct a background check, and if reasons for the denial of your expungement petition are turned up, the county prosecutor can challenge your petition in court.
In some of these cases, a petition for expungement will be rejected by the court, but if you’ve met all of the requirements and your petition has been prepared by the right attorney, it will probably be approved.
When a judge signs your expungement order and the agencies that maintain your criminal records have been ordered to extract and isolate your records, it may take up to twelve more weeks before you receive confirmation that your records have been expunged.
What Does Expungement Let You Tell Employers?
When a criminal record is expunged, it is no longer part of the public record, and no prospective employer, landlord, or anyone else will be able to find the record if a background check is conducted.
Expungement lets you tell prospective employers that you were not convicted of a crime. It means that you legally are not required to disclose a prior arrest or a prior criminal conviction on employment, loan, and housing applications that pose such questions.
The exception is that when you apply for particular jobs in the law enforcement and security fields, you may be required on the employment application or during the hiring process to disclose that your record includes an expungement.
Expunging a criminal record is always the smart thing to do. Don’t wait any longer if you’ve had trouble landing a job or finding a residence. Contact a New Jersey criminal defense lawyer, and start the expungement process as quickly as possible.