As a New Jersey expungement attorney and Essex County NJ criminal defense lawyer, I am frequently asked the following questions regarding criminal records and criminal convictions in NJ:
- “I was convicted of a criminal offense ____ number of years ago. How do I get the charge off my criminal record?
- “I pleaded guilty to____. How long will the conviction stay on my record?
- “If I plead guilty to this offense, will it go on my record. How many years before I can expunge the charge?”
- “If I expunge my record, will potential employers still be able to see it?”
When an individual is arrested and charged with a criminal offense, a record of both the arrest and the charge is created. If the defendant is subsequently convicted, a record of the conviction will appear on the defendant’s criminal record. If the charges are dismissed or you were acquitted, a record of the arrest still appears on your criminal history report.
Given the foregoing, if you are arrested in NJ and charged with just about any type of 2c offense, chances are it will remain on your record as either a record of arrest, or record of conviction until you take the steps to remove it. These records are public and employers have access to them. Needless to say, a tough, competitive job market could mean you on the outside looking in if you have a criminal record.
That being said, there are both time and offense restrictions that apply in most circumstances. The majority of people arrested for or convicted of either a disorderly persons offense or indictable offense will at some point think about removing the conviction from a criminal rap sheet. As a criminal attorney, I have a great deal of experience helping people clean up their record. The court proceeding in New Jersey for this purpose is called an expungement. The person seeking the expungement is called the Petitioner. The following is a guide to help you better understand the expungement law and procedure. I have organized in a question and answer format:
- I was convicted of a disorderly person offense three years ago. Am I eligible for an expungement?
- NO, not yet, unless you were 21 years of age or younger and committed a drug possession offense or a marijuana distribution offense ( amount involved must be 25 grams or less). Otherwise the waiting period for an expungement for a disorderly persons offense is 5 years from the date of conviction, 5 years from the full payment of any fines, 5 years from the date probation terminated, or 5 years from the date of release from incarceration.
- I was convicted of an Indictable (felony) offense 5 years ago, Can I have the conviction removed from my record?
- YES. The waiting period for an indictable offense is usually 10 years. The laws have recently changed to allow for a five year period as opposed to the full ten. The decision to grant the expungement short of the ten year period is discretionary, and the time waiting period starts to run as outlined in the previous section, but even that is somewhat malleable give the new laws. If you have the chance, take advantage of the new laws here.
- I was convicted of a cocaine drug/CDS distribution offense, can I have the record expunged?
- YES, new law has also provided relief to certain individuals convicted of drug distribution offenses, including cocaine, heroin, marijuana, etc. The modified five year requirement also may apply here. The convictions must be for 3rd or 4th degree drug distribution offenses. Additionally, you may be eligible for an expungement of more serious drug offenses, i.e. 2nd degree, if you were convicted of conspiracy offense to distribute CDS. New case law treats conspirators differently for the purpose of the expungement laws. Contact a New Jersey expungement lawyer to check if your offense is included in this category.
- I have several convictions on my record. Can I have them removed from my NJ criminal history report?
- It depends upon the number of convictions, the timing of the convictions, and the type, i.e. indicatable, disorderly persons, municipal ordinance, etc. As a general guide, if you have been convicted of a felony offense, and have no more than two (2) disorderly persons offenses or out-of-state misdemeanor convictions, you may still qualify. If you have been convicted of a disorderly persons offense or petty offense, and have no more than three subsequent disorderly persons offense or out-of-state misdemeanor convictions, you may still qualify. If you have a subsequent indictable or felony conviction, you will most likely be barred from relief.
- My case was dismissed, Do I have anything on my record?
- YES, a record of the arrest and the charge will still appear on your criminal record. The record will show that the case was dismissed. You will likely be entitled to file an expungement petition immediately, but there are some exceptions.
- I completed PTI (pre-trial intervention) or a conditional discharge and the charges were dismissed. When can I file my petition?
- Typically, six (6) months after the dismissal of the charges.
- I was a juvenile at the time of my conviction, does that show up on a criminal record
- Usually, only for court purposes. Most public records will not reveal the conviction. The rule for expungement of juvenile records is similar to adult convictions, but call for a free consultation so I can explain the differences.
- Who decides if my petition for expungement is granted?
- The judge, but the prosecutor who reviews the petition is the real gatekeeper.
- Are the records destroyed after the expungement is ordered?
- NO, the records are sequestered and removed from all the databases. It is as if it never happened. But they still exist. However, when an employer does a records check, it will come back as NO RECORD. Nonetheless, the records can be used during certain criminal court proceedings.
- If I am asked about my criminal history after the expungement, do I have to disclose it?
- NO, you are legally relieved from providing that information, UNLESS you are seeking employment with the judicial branch, or LAW ENFORCEMENT.
Many people are haunted by things they did years ago and don’t even realize how much a prior conviction in their background has affected them. It could mean losing a great deal of income over the course of a lifetime if employers are choosing others over you. Don’t procrastinate seeking relief that you are entitled to. The process is relatively inexpensive and could save you thousands of dollars in the future.