Tom Chaves Law Discusses New Jersey’s New Expungement Law Making it Easier for Residents to Erase a Criminal Record
On April 18, 2016, a new law signed by Governor Christie in January went into effect, which amends New Jersey’s Expungement Law, making it easier for nonviolent ex-offenders to clear their records. In simplest terms, when something is “expunged,” it means that the offense is treated for the most part as if it never happened. Even more importantly, you are legally allowed to state that the arrest or conviction never took place. This can be extremely important because having a criminal record often bears serious consequences, such as preventing a person from getting a job and/or providing for family and loved ones. With the help of an attorney, applying for a clean criminal record under the new law is more beneficial than ever.
There are three big changes that this new law brings:
1. Expungement after Drug Court
The original bill contained several limitations to the expungement of drug offenses; many of these limitations were eliminated, making it easier to have the drug convictions expunged. In order to get the convictions expunged, an individual must attend Drug Court and, upon graduation, is placed on special probation. This will apply to every arrest and conviction for every crime or offense, except for convictions for crimes that have always been barred (such as murder, sexual assault, or robbery).
However, the court can deny expungement if it finds that the need to keep the file available outweighs the benefit of expunging it or if the person’s record includes a conviction for a charge that is not eligible for expungement. If an individual is convicted of a criminal charge after the records are expunged, then the expunged records will be restored and the offender will no longer have the right to petition the court for expungement.
2. Shortened Waiting Period
Before this new law, the absolute minimum waiting period before a disorderly persons conviction (something people might commonly associate as a misdemeanor-type crime) could be expunged, was five years. The new amendments to the expungement law allow that waiting period to be shortened to three years. Additionally, the new law also extends “early pathway” availability to those convicted of disorderly persons offenses.
To obtain the benefit of that shortened period, however, the Petitioner must be able to show that “early pathway” expungement is “in the public interest.” This requirement is a major undertaking. Experienced expungement lawyers in New Jersey, who have been making this showing for clients ever since 2013 when “early pathway” expungement first became available, will best be able to help a client take advantage of this new law.
3. Expungement of Arrests Not Resulting in Conviction
Finally, the amendments create a favorable procedure for those arrested for a crime or offense but where the charges are later dismissed in Municipal Court. Often, people mistakenly believe that if a case is dismissed in Municipal Court, their criminal history will not appear on a background check. However, unless the charge, arrest and dismissal are expunged, they will appear on a background check.
Previously, a person who was charged and/or arrested and whose case was dismissed in Municipal Court, had to file an expungement petition to have the charges, arrest and dismissal expunged. The new amendment requires the municipal court judge or court administrator to sign a written confirmation, to be delivered to the Criminal Division of the Superior Court by the person who received the dismissal. After delivery, it becomes the responsibility of the Criminal Division and the County Prosecutor’s Office to ensure that the arrest, charges and dismissal are expunged.
How an Experienced Criminal Law Attorney Can Help
While this new law has only recently taken effect, experienced criminal law and expungement attorneys in New Jersey have been helping clients improve their criminal records for years. This can be very important, especially because a “clean” criminal record can be the difference between having or getting a new job and/or being able to provide and care for family and loved ones. Unfortunately, there are still some limitations to the expungement law. Some crimes cannot be expunged in New Jersey and official records relating to the offense may not be completely destroyed. This is because there are still certain instances where the expungement would have to be reported. For example, if you apply for a position in law enforcement, corrections, or certain branches of government or if you ask for another discharge.
New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Tom Chaves Helps NJ Residents Get Their Records Expunged
Because Expungement laws are always changing, an experienced attorney will be able to take the time, sit down with you and review your case, and explain whether you are eligible to have your record expunged depending on your specific situation. The cost of having a criminal record expunged is relatively minor, but can be very well worth it compared to the costs of having a criminal record. For a free consultation, call us at 908-256-3039 or contact us online today. We represent individuals with criminal charges in Somerset County, Hunterdon County, Middlesex County and Union County.