Thursday, February 11, 2016

Changes coming up in New Jersey's laws regarding expungement

As people may know, expungement is a tool that permits people to erase criminal histories in state and local criminal history records. It is available mostly to those who have been either charged but never convicted, or convicted of relatively low level offenses like shoplifting, simple assault rather than aggravated assault, defiant trespass and the like. One warning for people who have immigration issues, the Federal government does have access to records that may have been blocked by state or local authorities, so you should consult with an immigration attorney to see whether an expunged offense needs to be reported or not. People planning to enter law enforcement or to practice law will also be required to report arrests or convictions regardless of an expungement. The relevant legal provision is NJSA 2C:52-1 through 52-32.

Under present law, ten years must have passed from the date of completion for your conviction (not the date of conviction) while only two years need pass for convictions in municipal court. If you were arrested but never convicted, and the charge dismissed, then you can apply immediately. Only three petty disorderly or disorderly persons charges can be dismissed, and you can only use an expungement one time. Serious crimes are not subject to expungement, Motor vehicle charges are also not subject to expungement. This includes convictions for DUIs.

In addition to shortening the period of time one has to wait for an expungement, the new law that is slated to go into effect this April, a person will be able to petition to expunge an indictable offense and disorderly persons that may have been included in the charges, at the same time. The waiting time to seek to expunge a disorderly person's offense will be lowered from five years to three years.

Where a charge is brought but there is no conviction, municipal courts will be required to notify defendants that the charges can be expunged without opposition AND without filing a fee for the petition for expungement. Even those people who have had arrest records from before the law takes effect will be permitted to file petitions for expungement without the usual $75.00 fee.

Those people sentenced to drug court may have their entire record expunged after completion of a special probation, provided they have not been convicted of some offense that is non-expungeable as defined under NJSA 2C:52-2(b). These include crimes like murder, rape, child pornography, aggravated sexual assault and kidnapping.

The bill was signed into law by Governor Christie in January 2016.

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