Very few people like labels. More than likely, you don’t want to be referred to as a criminal. It could be that you did something stupid. Maybe you got caught up with the wrong people. Perhaps your temper got the best of you. You’ve done your time, paid your fines, and are an upstanding citizen. So, how do you go about getting your record expunged?
No doubt you already have some idea what the word expungement means. However, it bears clarification as it could represent a life-changing event for you. In simple terms, it is essentially taking a magic eraser to your criminal record. The particular blemish that has been affecting your life will be removed.
Why Is It Important to Obtain an Expungement?
You may already know the reasons it is important to obtain an expungement. It starts with applying for jobs or advancing your career. Prospective employers will expect you to sign off on doing a background check. At the very least, you’ll be on edge waiting to find out if you’ll be hired. For certain, you’ll blame any rejections on what your “rap sheet” revealed.
Meanwhile, a criminal conviction can work against your plans to get a government job or any position that requires a security clearance. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the offense was minor. Or, that you took care of the penalties. Your criminal record just doesn’t disappear. Unless you do something about it, you will be stigmatized by it for a very long time.
The Bottom Line on Getting Your Record Expunged
Here’s the good news. If you get your record expunged, your offenses are deemed never to have occurred. For many, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime. It truly means putting the past behind you.
In New Jersey, only the Superior Court can issue an expungement order regarding your criminal arrest and convictions. This order grants you with the right to answer “NO” when asked whether you have ever been charged, convicted, or arrested.
Even more importantly, if someone runs a background check on you, your record will come back clean. In plain English, an expungement is your ticket to freedom from prior wrongdoing.
Are You Eligible for an Expungement Order?
First and foremost, you should know that different rules and timetables apply to what crimes can be expunged. Here’s one that might interest you as far as what can’t be removed from your record. In New Jersey, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charges cannot be expunged. The reason might surprise you. However, what it boils down to is that DWI is a traffic offense in our state. It is therefore not available for expungement.
Meanwhile, you should be aware that New Jersey law explicitly states that some criminal records may not be expunged. They are listed in NJSA 2C:52-2 as follows:
- Criminal Homicide, except death by auto in some circumstance
- Luring or Enticing
- Human Trafficking
- Sexual Assault or 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 or False Imprisonment
- 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, or causing the child other harm. This includes a variety of acts, which an attorney experienced in obtaining expungements can explain.
- Producing or Possessing Chemical Weapons, Biological Agents or Nuclear or Radiological Device and Conspiracies or attempts to commit such crimes.
As you can see, this list is quite extensive. Notwithstanding, if you were charged with any of these crimes and acquitted, you might want to speak with an attorney concerning whether your arrest still appears on your record.
Pursuing a Record Expungement
If you believe you qualify for a record expungement, you should consult with an attorney who has experience in handling expungement matters. As with many legal proceedings, some conditions must be met. To start with, there may be a waiting period before your record can be erased. This is based on the nature of the criminal conviction.
The process starts by obtaining your criminal record. Your attorney will request that the State Police provide a copy of your record, as well as your fingerprint check. The latter requires you to be fingerprinted so that a search may be made.
After reviewing the findings with you, your attorney will provide you with legal advice concerning your eligibility for expungement. If you are a candidate, a Petition for Expungement will be submitted to the court. A hearing will be scheduled to review your case. Ultimately, the goal is to receive a formal Order for Expungement. Subsequently, the Order is served on all government agencies that are supposed to remove your details from their records
We Can Help
At the Law Offices of Beninato & Matrafaljo, we understand that everyone makes mistakes. We have the experience to help you erase the past with an expungement. Contact our offices to schedule an appointment.