Is your criminal record affecting your ability to get a job, join the military, or get into college? You are not alone. Many people with criminal records find that their record follows them and negatively affects them years later. Jobs and college applications also often ask if you have a prior criminal record. Sadly, answering “yes” may cause a potential future employer to move on to the next job applicant.
Did you know that there is a way to get your record cleared? Expungement allows people with criminal charges to wipe their records clean. The expungement process can seem a bit overwhelming at first. It’s essential to seek the help of a qualified attorney to help you through the New Jersey expungement process. Generally, an attorney will help you understand if you qualify for an expungement and what you need to do to apply.
What is Expungement?
According to the New Jersey Courts, “An expungement is the removal and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement, criminal justice agency or juvenile justice agency concerning a person’s apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal or juvenile justice system.” Expungement allows job or college applicants to honestly answer “no” when they come across a question about a criminal record. If an employer decides to do a background check, nothing will show up! Your past is in the past, and you are free to move on to a clean future. However, there is a waiting period between the charge and filing for expungement. This period is typically five years, but also depends on the charge and how many records you are attempting to expunge.
Are All Records Eligible for Expungement?
A common question that comes up regarding expungements is if all records are eligible. The answer is no. There are some criminal acts that do not qualify for expungement. Acts of murder, kidnapping, aggravated sexual assault, arson, and robbery are just some of the crimes that cannot be expunged. Additionally, some jobs require you to report an expunged record when you apply. If you apply for a career in law enforcement or the judicial branch, you must report any expungements. If you have more than one criminal offense, you can get multiple charges expunged. The process might take a bit longer due to the multiple charges.
New Jersey Expungement
New Jersey Courts provide a step-by-step process for getting an expungement.
Step 1: Get an attorney. While you can represent yourself during the expungement process, working with an experienced attorney can help you stay organized and understand the steps.
Step 2: Collect your records. Before applying for expungement, you must collect the following records from your arrest:
- Date of arrest
- Offense that caused arrest
- Original indictment number
- Date of disposition
- Punishment or consequence
If you worked with an attorney during your prior arrest, they should be able to provide the documents needed. If not, contact the Superior Court Criminal Case Management Office or the Superior Court Family Division Office (for juvenile cases) in the county where you were arrested.
Step 3: Fingerprint check
Step 4: Complete all the following expungement forms.
- Petition for Expungement
- Order for Hearing
You need to notarize and file each form with the court. You will also need to mail the filed documents to various places, including the Attorney General of New Jersey, the County Prosecutor, the Chief of Police, and more. Your attorney will help you figure out where each copy needs to go. Be sure to keep a copy for yourself! In addition, all forms will need to be packaged together with a designated cover letter.
Step 5: The hearing. During the hearing, the judge will either grant or deny the expungement. Not all counties require an in-person hearing for expungement, so check with your local jurisdiction.
Step 6: If expungement is granted, you must send a finalized expungement order to various officials like the Attorney General and the County Prosecutor. Your attorney can help you put together the list of every party who needs to receive the finalized expungement order.
Applying for expungement is not a quick or easy process. It takes time to collect records, fill out paperwork, go through a hearing, and ensure all documents get sent to the appropriate people. However, don’t feel overwhelmed; an attorney can help you every step of the way.
How an Attorney Can Help
Applying for expungement is a process. While you can do it on your own, it is much easier with an experienced attorney by your side. An attorney like Leon Matchin can help you through the application process by explaining which documents you need to submit and what will happen each step of the way. Your attorney can also help you track down the original records from your arrest, which you’ll need for the expungement application process.
New Jersey Expungement Things to Know
Expungement is an excellent opportunity to erase a criminal record and start fresh. Those with previous records can now freely apply for jobs, college, the military, and more without a past crime hanging over them. Keep in mind that not all records are eligible for expungement. If you have committed an offense like murder or kidnapping, you will not be eligible for expungement. In addition, some jobs require you to disclose if you have expunged records. The New Jersey expungement process involves a lot of steps. The best way to stay organized and make sure you are diligent about all your paperwork is to hire an attorney to help you through the process.
For more information about expungements and the application process, reach out to Leon Matchin. Contact Leon by phone at 732-887-2479, or email him at [email protected]. He will set up a free, no-obligation consultation to review your case and go over your options.