What You Don’t Know About: Expunging Your Records

EXPUNGEMENT Written by Lawrence Kroll, April 2016 Ten years is a long time. However, ten years was the mandatory waiting period a convicted felon in New Jersey had to wait before they could ask the court to expunge their record. Expungement is a process that allows certain convicted criminals to submit a request to the Court essentially to “erase” their conviction. Once a criminal conviction is expunged, all records of the arrest and conviction are sealed, the conviction is considered as if it didn’t happen, and the person can truthfully answer “no” to any question about whether they have a criminal record. These records can, however, be used again in a subsequent criminal proceeding. Until recently, the mandatory waiting period was ten years after conviction before a convicted felon could petition the court. Now, a person can seek an expungement after five years if they have not been subsequently convicted of another crime or disorderly person’s offense, and if the court finds it is in the “public interest” to grant the request. Another, similar, change reduces the waiting time to seek an expungement for a “disorderly persons” offense from five years to three years. Disorderly persons offenses are less-serious offenses that are typically disposed of in the Municipal Courts (these are commonly called “misdemeanors” in other states). The amendments to the law also allow for the automatic expungement of arrest records for matters that are dismissed or otherwise do not result in a conviction, such as graduation from drug court. In most cases, the waiting period starts only after a person completes all aspects of their sentencing, such as incarceration, parole, and payment of fines and restitution. The expungement process focuses primarily on non-violent people who made a mistake, but are trying to move on with their lives. More serious offenses, and repeat offenders, most likely will not be eligible. Even though five years is still a long time to wait, the shortened waiting period should help people find jobs and move on with their lives. If you have any questions about criminal record expungements, give us a call to see if we can help.