A criminal or disorderly persons conviction puts a major strain on family and work relationships, including a serious risk that the person so convicted cannot get a job in an already depressed economy. In the computer age, everyone has an online identity. A past mistake can haunt you for a long time if it finds its way online. The public has search capabilities unheard of 20 years ago. A criminal or disorderly persons conviction, even one that does not result in jail time, can hinder a person’s job prospects and affect professional licensure and firearms applications. One excellent method of limiting the fallout from a past conviction is expungement or removal of the event from court and police records.
New Jersey’s expungement law, amended on January 10, 2010, N.J.S. 2C:52-1 et seq., substantially liberalized the old law. Gone is the requirement of a 10-year lapse between dates of conviction and petition for expungement. Under the new law, a court may grant expungement under the following conditions:
1. Five years have passed since the date of conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration (whichever is last);
2. The person has not since been convicted of any crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense; and
3. The person persuades the court that the expungement “is in the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense, and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction.”
A major change in the new law permits expungement of a third- or fourth-degree controlled dangerous substances offense. Previously, convictions for the sale or distribution of controlled dangerous substances were ineligible for expungement — unless the conviction was for either 25 grams or less of marijuana or less than five grams of hashish. The new statute represents a huge gain for those whose drug convictions involved more serious controlled substances, but who have since turned a corner and want to make constructive changes in their lives.
The waiting period for expunging a municipal ordinance violation remains two years.
On the other side of the coin, certain crimes cannot be expunged, such as human trafficking; promoting prostitution; causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act; producing or possessing chemical or biological weapons, biological agents or nuclear or radiological devices; or selling or manufacturing child pornography. Also included on the “no expungement” list are major crimes such as homicide; robbery; arson; aggravated sexual assault; criminal restraint; false imprisonment; endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct; perjury and conspiracies; or attempts to commit any of these offenses.
For all other petty and/or disorderly persons offenses and criminal charges resulting in conviction, or even for arrests on charges small or large that result in dismissal or acquittal, an expungement may make a big difference in your life at home and at work.
If you or someone you know could benefit from an in-person consultation regarding expungement, please contact our office for assistance. One of our attorneys will be happy to sit down with you to discuss your options — and will do so candidly and confidentially. Let us know how we may help you.
Hanan M. Isaacs, Esq.
Keith B. Hofmann, Esq.