Understanding Expungements in New Jersey

A criminal record can close the door to opportunities that many of us take for granted. Whether it is a job prospect, an educational opportunity, or a housing application, the consequences of a past mistake can be long-lasting. However, for residents of New Jersey, an expungements attorney in New Jersey can be a beacon of hope, guiding you through the process of clearing your record and helping to reclaim your future.

Expungement in New Jersey offers a fresh start to those who qualify. It legally erases various criminal records and allows individuals to move forward without being held back by past convictions. The legal requirements for expungement can be complicated and confusing, but with the help of a skilled New Jersey expungements attorney, the journey becomes clearer and more accessible.

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What Are the Rules for Expungement in New Jersey?

New Jersey expungement laws are designed to give individuals a second chance by erasing their criminal records under certain conditions. Understanding these rules is crucial if you are considering this legal remedy.

The New Jersey courts offer a self-help resource to guide individuals through the expungement process, providing detailed information and necessary forms. This support ensures that people can access the justice system and clear their records without undue hardship.

Here are the three main considerations to determine if you are eligible for an expungement in New Jersey:

  • 1. The Nature of the Offense:

    Not all offenses are eligible for expungement. Generally, minor offenses, such as disorderly persons offenses, can be expunged, as well as many indictable offenses. However, serious crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, and sexual assault are not eligible for expungement in New Jersey.

  • 2. The Number of Convictions:

    The eligibility for expungement also depends on the number of convictions one has. In New Jersey, you can expunge up to three disorderly persons offenses or one indictable offense but not both. The law considers the total number of convictions in determining eligibility, not just arrests.

  • 3. Time Since the Last Violation Occurred:

    Time is a significant factor in expungement eligibility in New Jersey. There is a waiting period that must expire before one can apply for an expungement. This waiting period, described in more detail below, commences from the date of your conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation, or release from jail, whichever is latest.

Record

How Long Does It Take for Your Criminal Record to Clear in New Jersey?

One of the most common questions asked by individuals seeking expungement in New Jersey is about the time frame required to clear a criminal record. It is important to understand that the process is not instantaneous and varies depending on the nature of the offense and the specifics of the case.

Once the expungement process is initiated, it involves several steps, including filing a petition with the court, which must be served on multiple parties, such as the county prosecutor and the state police. After filing, the court will schedule a hearing, and if no objections are raised by the involved parties, the expungement will typically be granted.

The time it takes to complete an expungement process can vary, but typically, it takes about two years from start to finish. An experienced expungement attorney can provide guidance on whether it is possible to expedite the process and what steps are necessary to ensure a successful clearing of your record.

  • ● Indictable Offenses:

    For most indictable offenses, commonly referred to as felonies in other states, the waiting period before you can apply for an expungement is ten years. This period is calculated from the date of conviction, the date of payment of any fines, the completion of probation, or the date of release from incarceration, whichever comes last. However, in some cases, this waiting period can be reduced to five years if the court finds that it would be in the public interest to grant the expungement earlier.

  • ● Disorderly Persons Offenses

    Disorderly persons offenses, which are less severe than indictable offenses and are commonly referred to as felonies in other states, have a shorter waiting period of five years. This timeframe also follows the same criteria as that for indictable offenses regarding the completion of the sentence or payment of fines.

Rights

Understanding Your Rights During a
DUI/DWI Stop in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Clean Slate Law (New Jersey Revised Statutes Section 2C:52-5.3) represents a significant advancement in the state’s approach to criminal justice reform, specifically concerning expungement. Enacted to extend a helping hand to those who have been crime-free for a considerable period, this law enhances the opportunity for individuals to fully reintegrate into society without the stigma of past convictions.

Under the Clean Slate Law, individuals who have remained crime-free for at least ten years can petition to have all their eligible convictions expunged at once. This is a change from previous regulations, where only one indictable offense could be cleared at a time. The law applies to multiple offenses, streamlining the process and reducing the complexity involved in seeking multiple expungements.

The law also considers the nature of the offenses, allowing for the expungement of numerous disorderly persons offenses and some indictable offenses, provided they meet certain criteria. It is important to note, however, that like other expungement regulations, certain serious offenses such as homicide, sexual assault, and robbery, among others, are not eligible under the Clean Slate Law.

Yes, many felonies (indictable offenses) can indeed be expunged in New Jersey, but as with most legal matters, there are specific conditions that must be met. Expungement eligibility for indictable offenses generally hinges on the following:

  1. The type of crime
  2. The total number of convictions; and
  3. Compliance with the applicable waiting period

As previously discussed, the standard waiting period to apply for an expungement of an indictable offense is ten years. However, not all indictable offenses are eligible for expungement. Crimes such as homicide, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, and others in this category of severity cannot be expunged.

For those indictable offenses that are eligible, the process involves a detailed review of the individual’s criminal record, ensuring that all statutory requirements are met before the expungement is granted.

When considering clearing your criminal record in New Jersey, the cost can vary significantly based on the method you choose.

  • Doing it Yourself

For those looking to manage the process themselves, the do-it-yourself (DIY) route is the least expensive upfront. This involves a $75 filing fee along with additional minor costs for photocopying and mailing, which could total around $200. However, this method carries risks, as any errors in the filing can lead to a denial of your expungement petition, losing not just the filing fee but also your time and effort.

 

  • Hiring a DIY Service

For better accuracy and higher success rates, employing a DIY service or hiring an experienced New Jersey expungements attorney is advisable. DIY services, which provide form completion and guidance, can range from $100 to $300. These services aim to reduce errors but still carry some risks of mistakes.

 

  • Hiring an Attorney

Hiring an experienced attorney is the most effective but also the costliest option. Attorney fees for handling an expungement can range from $700 to $2,000, depending on the complexity of the case and the attorney’s expertise. This cost includes comprehensive service from case review and petition preparation to representation at the hearing and managing the follow-up, ensuring a higher likelihood of success without the personal stress of navigating the process alone.

Expungments

Expunging a criminal record can offer you a fresh start. But, whether you do-it-yourself or hire a qualified New Jersey criminal DUI defense attorney, it is important that you understand the associated costs. Each method offers different benefits and risks, and choosing the right approach depends on your individual circumstances and ability to manage the process.