New Jersey Expungement Laws
A criminal conviction can have far-reaching impact on your life. Having a criminal record can make it difficult or even impossible to secure a good job, rent housing, apply for credit or other financial services, or seek educational opportunities.
Fortunately, New Jersey law provides for a process known as expungement that allows certain eligible offenders who have completed their sentences to get out from under the debilitating effects of a criminal record.
Contact Clark, Clark & Noonan, LLC for a free case evaluation to speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys if you have want to learn more about the expungement process and find out whether you may be eligible for expungement of your record.
About Expungement in New Jersey
An expungement effectively seals arrest and conviction records of the expunged offense from most public access. For example, expunged records will not show up on most criminal background checks, and employers are legally prohibited from asking you about expunged criminal offenses.
However, expunged records may still be accessed under certain circumstances, including determining eligibility for diversionary programs, setting bail, or imposing a sentence following a subsequent arrest or conviction. Certain agencies, such as the Real Estate Commission and Department of Insurance, are not subject to expungement orders and may continue to publish criminal records in their possession.
Chapter 2C:52 of the New Jersey Statutes sets forth the eligibility requirements and the process for seeking expungement of New Jersey criminal records. Recently, the expungement statute has been amended to expand the scope of expungement and streamline the process for obtaining an expungement.
Even still, eligibility for expungement is strictly construed, with various factors determining whether an applicant may be entitled to an expungement, including the number of convictions they have, the type of offenses being expunged, and how much time has passed since the completion of the sentence.
The application process for expungement can also prove complicated to many laypeople. An application will require you to furnish information about your arrest and conviction and to file your application in the county where your trial and conviction took place.
If you are considering expungement of your criminal record, you can help make the process considerably easier by obtaining the assistance of an experienced criminal attorney from Clark, Clark & Noonan, LLC. Our legal team is well-versed in New Jersey’s expungement law.
We are prepared to review your case and help you determine whether you may be eligible to apply for expungement. We can also prepare your application to put you in the best position for the court to grant your request for expungement.
Having an experienced criminal attorney to help you through the expungement process can prove especially helpful if you are seeking an early expungement, have drug-related offenses or multiple convictions on your record, have out-of-state convictions, or were previously admitted to pretrial intervention or drug court.
We can also advocate on your behalf at the court hearing on your application – especially if the state is permitted to object to your application, such as when you apply for early expungement.
Section 2C:52-2 – Indictable Offenses
Section 2C:52-2 governs the expungement of indictable offenses, often called felonies in other states. These are criminal offenses that may be punished with six months or more of prison time. Under the statute, a person may apply for expungement of an indictable offense if they have been convicted of only one crime under New Jersey law, and do not have any subsequent convictions under New Jersey law or the laws of any other jurisdiction.
A person may also be eligible for expungement of an indictable offense if they have been convicted of only one indictable offense and no more than three disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) or municipal violations under New Jersey law, and do not have any subsequent convictions.
Finally, a person may be entitled to seek expungement of an indictable offense if they have been convicted of multiple crimes or a combination of crimes and misdemeanors all listed in a single judgment of conviction, or if all the crimes and misdemeanors were interdependent, closely related, and took place in a sequence of events over a short period of time, and the person does not have any subsequent convictions.
This provision is known as the “crime spree” exception, since it allows an offender with multiple offenses who might otherwise be ineligible to expunge an indictable offense to treat multiple offenses that occurred as part of a single “crime spree” as a single offense for the purposes of applying for expungement.
Convictions that took place prior to the offense being expunged will not bar an individual from seeking expungement.
A person seeking expungement for their most recent conviction of an indictable offense can present their application for expungement after a five-year waiting period, which begins following the date of the conviction, or as soon as they have served any prison sentence, paid court-ordered fines/fees/penalties/restitution, or completed probation or parole, whichever comes later.
A court may waive incomplete payment of court-ordered financial assessments, so long as the applicant substantially complied with the court order and the failure to make full payment was not caused by the applicant’s willful noncompliance.
The applicant must also otherwise meet the time requirements for eligibility for expungement. However, if the court does grant expungement under such circumstances, it may turn any unpaid balance of a financial assessment into a civil judgment in favor of the state treasury.
A court may also grant expungement after four years, but only upon finding that compelling circumstances warrant the early expungement.
Factors that courts consider in deciding whether to grant early expungement include:
- The nature of the offense being expunged
- The offender’s circumstances at the time of the offense, such as their age
- The offender’s character and behavior before and after conviction
- The offender’s participation in activities that reduce the risk of re-offending
- The offender’s compliance with their other legal obligations, such as child support
- The offender’s family and community ties, including whether they still have ties with people involved in criminal activity
- The offender’s conduct while incarcerated
- Whether the offender has been arrested since conviction and the circumstances surrounding such arrests
- Evidence that the offender’s record has negatively affected his or her ability to lead a productive life, such as difficulties securing employment or housing
Certain indictable offenses cannot be expunged under any circumstances, including:
- Criminal homicide (except death by auto or strict liability vehicular homicide)
- Luring or enticing
- Human trafficking
- Criminal sexual contact (if the victim was a minor)
- Aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault
- Aggravated criminal sexual contact
- Endangering the welfare of a child by sexual conduct that impairs or debauches the morals of the child
- Criminal restraint or false imprisonment (if the victim was a minor and the offender was not the victim’s parent)
- Production, possession, or distribution of child pornography
- False swearing
- Producing or possessing chemical weapons, biological weapons, or nuclear or radiological weapons
- Distribution of, or possession with intent to distribute, controlled dangerous substances (except offenses involving less than 1 ounce of marijuana or less than 5 grams of hashish, or third-degree or fourth-degree offenses if the court finds compelling circumstances to grant expungement)
- Conspiracy or attempt of any the above offenses
- Certain offenses committed prior to September 1979, including manslaughter, treason, anarchy, rape or forcible sodomy, embracery, or conspiracy, attempt, or aiding and abetting of any of these offenses
- Crimes involving a person’s public office or public employment
Section 2C:52-5.1 – Eligibility to File Petition for Expungement
Section 2C:52-5.1 establishes eligibility to apply for expungement for certain categories of offenders. These offenders may apply for expungement after satisfying court-ordered financial assessments, completing probation and parole, and being released from incarceration or legal custody or supervision.
Eligible offenders include any person charged with, convicted of, or adjudicated delinquent of offenses that, if committed by an adult, would constitute distribution of or possession with intent to distribute possession of, or use of marijuana or hashish.
Offenders who were charged, convicted, or adjudicated delinquent prior to the effective date of this section may seek expungement at any time. Offenders whose offenses were charged or adjudicated following the effective date of this section may apply for expungement as soon as three years following their satisfaction of financial assessment, completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration or custody or supervision.
A court granting expungement may waive the obligation to satisfy financial assessments after finding the applicant lacks the ability to satisfy the financial assessment.
This section further expanded the eligibility for expungement of marijuana-related convictions, particularly for offenders who were juveniles at the time of the offense. Expungement of most drug-related offenses is typically prohibited, but this section reflects evolving public policy in New Jersey to lessen the long-term impact of low-level marijuana convictions.
Section 2C:52-5.3 – “Clean Slate” Expungement by Petition
Although expungement traditionally limited the number of criminal offenses that a person could expunge from their record. Section 2C:52-5.3 established a “clean slate” expungement process. Under this section, any person may seek expungement of their entire criminal record if they have been convicted of one or more indictable offenses or one or more petty disorderly persons or disorderly persons offenses, or some combination thereof, even if they would otherwise be ineligible for expungement because they had a previous expungement granted. However, if a person has an ineligible offense, they cannot seek a “clean slate” expungement.
Eligibility for a “clean slate” expungement begins following 10 years after the latest of an applicant’s most recent conviction, payment of court-ordered financial assessments, completion of probational or parole, or release from incarceration. As with other expungement provisions, if the court finds that an applicant had substantially complied with the financial assessment obligation but failed to fully pay the court-ordered financial assessments for reasons other than willful noncompliance, the court can still grant expungement and turn the unpaid balance of the financial assessment into a civil judgment if the applicant otherwise meets the 10-year waiting period.
However, this “clean slate” provision will cease to be in effect once New Jersey finishes establishing an automated “clean slate” process. After the automated clean slate process goes into effect, no further petitions for a clean slate expungement will be accepted by the courts.
Section 2C:52-5.4 – Automated “Clean Slate” Process
Section 2C:52-5.4 calls on the state to create a task force intended to draft recommendations for the establishment of an automated process for the expungement or sealing of certain criminal records.
The statute’s contemplated process would allow any person convicted of one or more indictable offenses, one or more disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses, or any combination thereof (so long as no crime is among the list of offenses ineligible for expungement), following 10 years after the later of the person’s most recent conviction, payment of court-ordered financial assessments, completion of parole or probation, or release from prison, to have their arrest and conviction records automatically sealed or expunged without the need to file an application with the court.
However, the process also calls for sealed or expunged records to be restored to full access if the person is subsequently convicted of a crime that is ineligible for expungement.
Once put into effect, this automated “clean slate” process will mean that people convicted of crimes eligible for expungement who live a law-abiding life for at least 10 years following the completion of their sentence will have their criminal records automatically sealed or expunged without any further effort on their part, with those records only being reopened if a person is later convicted of a serious criminal offense.
Contact Clark, Clark & Noonan Today
If you are considering seeking expungement of your New Jersey criminal records, contact the attorneys of Clark, Clark & Noonan, LLC today for a free, confidential consultation. We are ready to discuss your eligibility for expungement and to explain more about how our firm can help you seek to eliminate the stigma of a criminal record so that you can better pursue opportunities for a productive, law-abiding life.