A criminal record is a public record that follows you as you try to move forward with your life. Having a criminal record can make it more difficult to get a job, obtain a loan for a car or mortgage, qualify for public housing and more.
The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can help you determine whether you are eligible to have your record sealed. If so, our attorneys can guide you through the complex process to have your criminal records removed from public view. Schedule a free consultation with one of our New Jersey law offices today about having your past arrests and convictions sealed. We can handle the extensive paperwork for you and ensure your petition for expungement moves forward without unnecessary problems or delay.
What is Sealing Your Criminal Record vs. Expungement?
To seal a criminal record is to remove it from the public record. As a part of the public record, your criminal history is theoretically available to anyone who wants to examine it, even if charges were dropped or you were found not guilty.
Typically, it is prospective employers, banks and credit agencies, schools, landlords and government officials who conduct background checks that include accessing an applicant’s criminal record. Others who are curious can check public records, too.
If your criminal record is sealed it does not show up in a standard background check, but it still exists. In some cases, a court could order it unsealed.
If you have a criminal record in New Jersey, you may be able to benefit from a legal process known as “expungement,” which goes beyond sealing your criminal record. After expungement, a background check will show no criminal record and you can legally answer “No” to any questions about a prior arrest or conviction. With expungement, your criminal record no longer exists.
New Jersey is one of the most progressive states in the nation when it comes to expunging criminal records. New Jersey’s existing criminal record expungement laws were updated in 2018 to make more people and more crimes eligible for expungement, and to allow expungement sooner after completion of a court sentence.
It you are among the tens of thousands of New Jersey resident who have criminal records, you may benefit from the second chance New Jersey leaders have provided for offenders who have moved forward with their lives. The Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall would be proud to help you make the most of this opportunity.
How You Can Benefit from Sealing / Expunging Your Criminal Records
The New Jersey Courts reported handling 11,707 expungement petitions in the 2017-2018 court year. You may be able to reap the same benefits many others sought, including more likely approval of your:
- Job application. Most job applications ask about prior criminal convictions or arrests. They’ll note that a “Yes” answer will not necessarily be held against you. Studies show that this is often simply untrue. Background checks are standard in today’s digital age, so you have no option other than to admit a tarnished background. However, if your records are expunged, you can legally answer “No” to questions about a criminal history.
- Loan or credit application. Some creditors will deny loans to applicants with a criminal past, judging them likely to have an unstable lifestyle that makes them a higher risk of defaulting on a loan. When loans are approved, they carry higher interest rates based on the perceived risk of nonpayment. Expunging your records makes it easier to obtain a mortgage, car loan, credit cards or financial aid for school.
- Rental home or public housing application. Many private landlords and public housing projects have policies against renting to people with criminal records. While it is illegal to use a criminal record as an excuse for racial discrimination, landlords can claim an individual’s history of crime may threaten the health, safety or right to peaceful enjoyment of a housing complex by other residents or employees. Having your records expunged is less expensive than mounting a discrimination lawsuit to challenge the legality of a denied rental/housing application.
- Gun permit application. New Jersey law (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:39-7) prohibits issuing a gun permit to an applicant who has been convicted of a disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) or indictable crime (felony). The New Jersey firearms application form asks about each separately. However, once your conviction is expunged, you don’t have to disclose it. Under federal law (18 U.S. Code § 921 (a)(20)(B)), an expunged conviction is not considered a conviction for purposes of firearms possession unless the expungement specifically mandates that the individual not have firearms.
With your records expunged, you would no longer have to explain a past mistake or worry about it being found out by an employer or new acquaintances who might become a significant part of your life.
Don’t let a prior criminal conviction keep you from getting ahead. You should not have to relive the embarrassment of a false arrest or the conviction of petty crime. Talk to our lawyers about sealing a criminal record in New Jersey.
How to Have Your NJ Criminal Record Sealed / Expunged
New Jersey’s record expungement laws are mean to clean the slate for individuals who were never found guilty or who have learned from mistakes or misdeeds in their past.
You may petition for expungement of criminal records after a specified amount time and after paying all fines, being released from incarceration and/or completing probation or parole. You must not face any pending criminal charges.
You may petition to have one indictable offense (felony) and up to four disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions (misdemeanors) expunged.
You may petition for expungement:
- Immediately for charges that were dropped.
- 6 months after completing a diversionary program (e.g., New Jersey’s Pre-Trial Intervention program, or PTI).
- 2 years after completing sentencing for violating a municipal ordinance.
- 5 years after completing sentencing for a crime committed as a juvenile.
- 5 years after completing sentencing for conviction in an indictable offense.
The records of certain offenses including driving under the influence and violent crimes cannot be expunged, including:
- Producing or possessing chemical weapons, biological agents or nuclear or radiological devices
- Rape and other sexual offenses
- Forcible sodomy
- Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct
- Selling or manufacturing child pornography
- False swearing
- Embracery (attempting to influence a juror)
- Crimes connected to service in elective or appointed public office
- Possession, sale or distribution of illicit drugs, unless the charge was for 25 grams or less of marijuana or 5 grams or less of hashish, or it was otherwise a minor (third or fourth degree) offense.
Petitioning a judge to expunge your criminal records requires explaining exactly what you are asking in a specific format. You must provide the:
- Date of your arrest as an adult or when you were taken into custody as a juvenile
- The statute(s) and offense(s) you were accused or convicted of violating / committing
- The original indictment, accusation, summons, docket number, warrant number or complaint number for each offense in the petition
- The date of the disposition (conclusion of your case)
- The specific punishment or other disposition handed down.
In addition to collecting this information, you must complete and file the original and two copies of each of the following with the court:
- Petition for Expungement, stating your request for an Expungement Order and why you qualify
- Order for Hearing, which a judge will use to schedule a hearing
- Expungement Order, which a judge will sign if your petition is granted
- Cover Letter, a form letter that describes to the Superior Court Criminal Case Management Office what you are submitting and what the enclosed forms are for.
You must also submit two large self-addressed envelopes with the appropriate postage stamped on each. They will be used to mail copies of your filed documents back to you.
The filing fee should be in the form of a money order or certified check made out to “Treasurer, State of N.J.”
When a hearing is set, you must mail additional copies (certified mail, return receipt requested) of the Petition for Expungement, Order for Hearing, and the proposed Expungement Order to the government agencies involved in your case (police, prosecutor, prison warden, parole office, etc.). Every agency that might have a copy of your record must be notified that you are seeking to have it expunged. After the hearing, you’ll have to mail the final order to the same agencies.
We Can Help Get Your NJ Records Sealed & Expunged
New Jersey law allows eligible people to have their criminal records expunged, but it is not an absolute right. Granting a petition to have a record sealed or expunged is still up to a judge. Before it gets to a judge, your application package must be approved and forwarded by the court’s Case Management Office.
The first piece of advice in the New Jersey Courts guide to expungement is: Try to Get a Lawyer. It’s good advice. The guide adds: “even though your records may be eligible for expungement, if you miss any of the required steps, your Petition for Expungement may be denied. In that case, you will have to start over.”
Our skilled and dedicated criminal record expungement attorneys at the Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall can make sure your petition is complete and accurate — and relieve you of the burden and possibility of making a mistake. We have successfully pursued expungement petitions for clients in courts throughout New Jersey.
Our firm has nine offices in New Jersey and our attorneys have worked in every Superior Court in the state. We have the knowledge and resources to help you make a fresh start. Contact the Law Office of Jonathan F. Marshall today about having your New Jersey criminal records expunged.