In New Jersey, the journey towards a clean slate begins with the expungement process. Expungement provides individuals with a second chance to build their lives without the shadow of past mistakes. It is a critical step for those seeking to overcome the barriers often presented by a criminal record—whether in employment, education, or other critical areas of life. In this guide, we will delve deep into what expungement means, the types of records that are eligible for expungement, and the process that one should undertake in order to have a clean record.
Understanding Expungement in New Jersey
Expungement, in the simplest terms, is the process of legally erasing or sealing records of arrests, charges, or convictions. Once a record is expunged, it’s as if the event never occurred in the eyes of the law. Individuals can honestly answer “no” when asked if they’ve been previously arrested or convicted. This process offers a second chance, allowing individuals to move forward without the burden of their past mistakes affecting their employment prospects, housing applications, or any other scenario where a background check is performed.
Records Eligible for Expungement
While expungement sounds like a golden opportunity, not all records can be sealed or erased. Here are the types of records that New Jersey laws consider for expungement:
- Arrests Without Convictions: If you were arrested but not convicted of a crime, you can typically have that arrest record expunged.
- Municipal Ordinance Violations: These are minor offenses that can generally be expunged from one’s record, provided that certain conditions are met.
- Juvenile Records: The state of New Jersey considers juvenile records for expungement, but there might be specific conditions attached, such as a waiting period.
- Drug Offenses (young offenders): For individuals who were below the age of 21 at the time of the offense and were convicted of controlled substance offenses, there’s potential for expungement. This is provided they’ve satisfied the conditions and completed any imposed sentence or probation.
- Certain Convictions: New Jersey law allows for the expungement of certain criminal convictions. However, the ability to expunge these convictions often depends on factors like the severity of the crime, the number of total offenses, and the time that has passed since the conviction. There are generally waiting periods, which can vary based on the offense before one can apply for expungement.
Minor offenses, like disorderly persons offenses, and a single indictable offense, akin to a felony, may be expunged, usually after a waiting period and under certain conditions. However, serious offenses such as murder, kidnapping, or sexual assault are not eligible for expungement. Consult with an expungement lawyer, like those at Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC, to understand the nuances and confirm your eligibility.
The Expungement Process
The process of expungement in New Jersey isn’t just a simple push of a button. It requires careful consideration, documentation, and adherence to legal procedures. Here’s a simplified breakdown:
- Eligibility Determination: Before you embark on the expungement process, it’s essential to establish whether your record can be expunged. Not all offenses or situations qualify, so understanding your specific circumstances is crucial. For this, it’s wise to consult with an attorney.
- Obtain Your Criminal Record: Before you can file for an expungement, you’ll need to obtain a copy of your criminal record. This will help identify the specific offenses and the related details you wish to have expunged. The New Jersey State Police maintains these records.
- Gather Necessary Documents: In addition to your criminal record, you’ll need to compile all relevant documents related to your arrest, charge, or conviction. These documents can include court judgments, arrest reports, and any other pertinent records.
- Prepare and File a Petition for Expungement: This is the formal request to the court to have your records expunged. It must be filed with the Superior Court in the county where the arrest or prosecution occurred. Along with the petition, you’ll need to include an official Order for Expungement, which, if the petition is approved, will be signed by a judge.
- Service of Petition: After filing, copies of the petition must be served to various entities, like the local police department, the county prosecutor, and any other involved parties. They have a right to review the petition and potentially object.
- Waiting Period: Once your petition has been filed and served, there’s a waiting period. Various agencies, including the prosecutor’s office, have the right to object to your petition based on grounds they deem valid. If there are no objections, the process might proceed without a formal hearing.
- Attend a Hearing (if necessary): If there are objections or if the judge determines a hearing is needed for other reasons, you’ll need to attend. During this hearing, the judge will consider the merits of your petition, the objections (if any), and any additional evidence or arguments presented.
- Receive the Order of Expungement: If the judge approves your petition, the Order of Expungement you provided will be signed. This order will be forwarded to all related agencies, instructing them to erase or seal the relevant records.
- Follow-up: After the expungement has been approved and processed, it’s a good idea to conduct a background check on yourself to ensure that the records have been correctly expunged. This can give you peace of mind and ensure that there are no lingering issues.
Remember, while this provides a general overview, the expungement process can be intricate and potentially challenging. It’s always recommended to work with a knowledgeable attorney who can guide you through the steps and ensure all legal requirements are met.
Contact an Experienced Expungement Lawyer at Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Starting anew without the shadow of past mistakes is invaluable. New Jersey’s expungement law provides this lifeline, ensuring that an individual’s future isn’t forever tainted by past misjudgments. If you or someone you know needs assistance navigating the intricacies of New Jersey’s expungement laws, don’t hesitate. Contact us today.
Aydelotte & Scardella Law LLC boasts a team of experienced legal professionals ready to guide you through every step, ensuring your best chance at a clean slate. Don’t let your past dictate your future. Reach out to us today, and let’s pave the way to your renewed opportunities.