What Options Exist in New Jersey to Seal Criminal Records?
In most cases, the first concern in a criminal defense case is fighting charges or reducing any potential sentence. In cases where a conviction occurs, the next concern is often whether an appeal is possible. Many people don’t realize there are concerns even after these—for example, you may not want your criminal record to follow you for the rest of your life.
It is possible to have some criminal convictions expunged in New Jersey. Expungements can reduce some of the obstacles you might face in the future related to your criminal record.
What Is Expungement of Criminal Records?
An expungement is similar to the concept of sealing records. It’s an administrative process within the criminal justice system that “erases” the record of your conviction, including the arrest, complaints, warrants and other related records. The records aren’t destroyed, but they are only available to the court and law enforcement agencies under very specific circumstances.
Expungement has a variety of benefits. For example, an expunged conviction doesn’t show up on background checks, reducing the impact a conviction has on your ability to get a job. Expunged convictions also don’t typically count as previous convictions with regard to sentencing procedures, and that potentially reduces the penalties you might face if you are charged with future crimes.
Who Is Eligible for Expungement?
Not every conviction can be expunged. Generally, convictions on charges that involve very serious indictable offenses or violent crimes are not eligible for the expungement process in New Jersey. Some examples of convictions that are ineligible include those related to charges such as kidnapping, murder, rape, robbery, or creating or selling child pornography. The best way to understand if your past convictions are eligible for expungement is to talk to a criminal defense team.
While there are some exceptions to this rule, it’s also important to note that you usually have to wait at least five years before you can successfully apply for an expungement on a conviction. The five-year period doesn’t begin until you complete all the steps involved in your sentence, including paying any fines and serving any probation or parole.
The number of crimes you can expunge from your record may also be limited, depending on how long it has been since you completed sentencing requirements on your last conviction.
Sealing Juvenile Records in New Jersey
Depending on the type of convictions and the age of the individual, there are unique considerations in regard to juvenile records. If you were convicted of a crime as a juvenile, you may be able to get your records sealed by joining the military or by demonstrating good behavior and maintaining a clean record for some time after serving out a sentence.
What Is the Process for Expunging Records in New Jersey?
Expunging your records can be a complex process. It involves a lot of paperwork, and working with the team of former prosecutors at the Bianchi Law Group, LLC, can help you understand your options and ensure optimal chances of success with your application.
To complete the expungement process, you will need to:
- Get copies of your criminal records. You will need to order copies of your New Jersey criminal records. Ensuring you have all your records is important, as you need this information to include convictions and arrest information in your petition.
- File a petition. Once you have all the documents you need, you will have to file a petition for expungement. Mistakes in this document can reduce your chances of success or result in a less-than-clean record after the process is complete.
- Serve copies of the petition. You or your attorney must cause copies of the petition to be served on all applicable law enforcement agencies. This includes any government entity or agency that might have criminal records on file related to you.
- Attend a hearing. While your presence in court isn’t necessarily required, the judge or others may have questions about your case. Talk to your attorney about whether you should be present for any hearings or whether they will attend on your behalf.
- Receive the decision of the court. After the hearing, the court issues an order to expunge your record if the petition is successful.
- Follow up on expungement orders. The order is served on all applicable law enforcement and government agencies, but it can take a few months for all agencies to process the order and expunge any records. It’s a good idea to have someone following up to ensure your records are properly expunged.
Get Experienced Legal Help With Your Expungement
An expungement can create peace of mind and help you step into a freer future. However, no one is guaranteed an expungement, and it’s important to follow the requirements for requesting one correctly. Working with an experienced criminal law team can help you increase your chances of a positive outcome with expungement petitions.
The team of former prosecutors at the Bianchi Law Group, LLC, can review your record with you and help you understand whether expungement is an option. We also work with you to prepare the petition and work through the process to support a better chance at a positive outcome. To find out more about how we can help with your criminal record, call us at 862-210-8570.