New Jersey state law permits a person to “expunge” or erase certain criminal records. If a person qualifies, the advantages of an expungement are tremendous. The law permits the expungement of records relating to an arrest, prosecution and/or conviction for an indictable offense (felony), a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) or a municipal or city ordinance violation. In fact, in most situations the law permits an individual to truthfully and honestly state that their case “never happened.” Once a case has been ordered expunged, the physical records in the hands of law enforcement agencies and the courts are segregated from the public records and sealed from public access. Computer records are coded as expunged and are thereafter inaccessible to the public. Following your expungement, if a prospective employer orders your Criminal Case History or “rap sheet,” the results will simply indicate “NO RECORD.”
In speaking with our clients, one of the most cited reasons for desiring an expungement is the ability to check the “No” box on employment applications for questions inquiring about prior criminal arrests or convictions. With very few exceptions, the expungement statute enables you to “wipe your slate clean.” We view the expungement law as a generous opportunity given us by the legislature to restore a person’s good name and stature in the community.
As the New Jersey expungement statute is quite complex, you will need to begin the process by speaking with an attorney to determine if you are eligible for an expungement. While some cases, such as an arrest not resulting in conviction, are expungable immediately, certain convictions will have a waiting period ranging from 2 to 10 years depending on the charge involved. If you are not currently eligible, we will be able to advise you when you may become eligible at a future point. During a free five or ten minute telephone interview or office consultation, we will ask you all of the questions needed to analyze your case and determine if the law will permit you to successfully expunge your records. If you are eligible for an expungement, we will then explain to you in detail how the process works and the cost involved. Uncontested expungements are handled from beginning to end for a small fixed legal fee plus expenses, and you are advised of the exact cost before work is started.
In general, an expungement proceeding takes about 3 months and, so long as no objections are filed, does not require you to appear in court. Your attorney will prepare, file and serve all of the necessary documents and, in nearly all cases, a Superior Court Judge will grant your expungement and sign an Order of Expungement “on the papers,” which means “without any appearance.” Once the Judge signs the final Order of Expungement, your attorney serves that order on all of the law enforcement agencies and court offices in the state that retain and disseminate criminal records. When you receive your copy of your final Order, you will thereafter be able to again say that you have “no criminal record.”