Expungement of Criminal Records – General – New Jersey
What is an expungement? The process of legally destroying, obliterating or striking out records or information in files, computers and other depositories relating to criminal charges.
Do the records just disappear? No, expunging records under NJSA 2C:52-1 means the extraction and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system. Upon inquiry, the person having control over the records is to reply that such records don’t exist. NJSA 2C:52-15. The inspection of expunged records may be ordered by the Superior Court in limited circumstances. They cannot be used for impeachment purposes, but may be used in sentencing for a later conviction. NJSA 2C:52-19. They may also be used in determining whether to grant or deny the person's application for acceptance into a supervisory treatment or diversion program for subsequent charges, or in granting parole. NJSA 2C:52-20, NJSA 2C:52-22.
What records may be expunged? An expungement order under NJSA 2C:52-1 covers all records of complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, "rap sheets" and judicial docket records.
Persons whose DNA was included in the state database in relation to an offense’s outcome later reversed or dismissed may apply for an order to expunge the records. If granted, the division must purge the DNA record and all other identifiable information from the State database and the DNA sample stored in the State databank. NJSA 53:1-20.25.
Who is eligible for an order to expunge criminal records?
If you are a law-abiding citizen, you can now have old arrests or convictions erased from public records and police folders. Under NJSA 2C:52-1 et seq. past criminal convictions can be expunged/erased under certain instances. For example, if you were convicted or pleaded guilty to a disorderly person offense (misdemeanor type) more than 5 years ago, and have not been convicted of anything since, you can have your attorney petition to the Superior Court for an Expungement (Erase and removal) of your criminal record. If you plead guilty to a town ordinance (ex. - Seaside Heights Drinking in Public) you can petition for an Expungement after waiting two years. A Juvenile delinquent/guilty finding for a minor can also be expunged/erased under similar circumstances. In addition, minor drug arrests which resulted in first offender conditional discharge can be erased if one year has passed since termination of probation or conclusion of court proceedings.
Most importantly, arrests on frivolous complaints which did not result in a conviction or if charges were dismissed, can be expunged, without waiting.
Certain indictable offenses are not eligible for expungement- crimes involving public office; drug crimes, except for possession of marijuana or hashish in certain small amounts; disorderliness, after the second offense; criminal homicide, except death by auto; kidnapping; luring or enticing; aggravated sexual assault; aggravated criminal sexual contact, if the victim is a minor; criminal sexual contact, if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim; criminal restraint; false imprisonment; robbery; arson and related offenses; endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child; endangering the welfare of a child; perjury; false swearing; and conspiracies or attempts to commit such crimes. NJSA 2C:52-2.
How do I get records expunged?
THE EXPUNGEMENT PETITION
You should contact an attorney experienced with handling expungements in the Superior Court. Your attorney will prepare an expungement petition which under state law must contain substantial background information, including:
a. Date of Birth and Social Security #
b. Date of Arrest
c. Statute Arrested For and Statute Convicted
d. Original Indictment, Summons, or Complaint Number
e. Petitioner's Date of Conviction or Date of Disposition
f. Court's Disposition of the Matter and Punishment Adopted, if Any
In addition, the Expungement Petition must have an affidavit that states that there are no charges pending and that the petitioner never previously received a prior expungement. The Expungement Petition is filed in the county where the offense took place, not where the defendant lives. Once filed, the Superior Court will set a hearing within 35-60 days.
As required under the statute, the attorney for the applicant must serve a copy of the Petition Order for hearing and supporting documents on the following people:
1. Superintendent of State Police
2. Attorney General
3. County Prosecutor of the county where the court is located
4. The Chief of Police where the event took place
5. The chief law enforcement officer of any law enforcement agency which participated in the arrest
6. The warden of any institution where the petitioner was confined, and
7. If the disposition was made by a municipal court, upon the municipal court which heard the case.
If you satisfy all other statutory requirements and there is no objection by the entities notified, the court will usually grant an order directing the clerk of the court and all relevant criminal justice and law enforcement agencies to expunge (remove) records of said disposition including evidence of arrest, detention, conviction, and proceedings.
There are additional pleadings which the applicant's attorney must prepare and file.