Expungements in New Jersey
In November 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an article on the rise of expungement requests from job seekers who want to erase their criminal pasts. Because background checks do not forgive the past, people fear the stigma attached to a criminal record. Some criminal records are not planned life interruptions especially when people are young and want to experiment with every aspect of life. One person interviewed in the article said he once threatened someone with an air brush, and cannot find even a temp job through the incident concluded with a no judgment finding and a $60 fine. People plan on college, a job, a house, a family; but do not plan on unemployment, or legal troubles.
An expungement is the removal of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement, criminal justice agency or juvenile justice agency about a person’s apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal or juvenile justice system. In New Jersey, when a court grants an order for expungement, the adult arrest, the record of law enforcement taking the person into custody as a juvenile, conviction, adjudication of delinquency, disposition and any related criminal proceedings are considered not to have occurred.
The New Jersey expungement law stating who is eligible for an expungement is discussed in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 through N.J.S.A. 2C:52-32. A person eligible for expungement must prepare and file a Petition for Expungement in the Superior Court in the county where the arrest or prosecution took place.
After the petition filing, a judge decides whether the person should be granted an Expungement Order. A person may try to get the Expungement Order alone, but the court system is confusing so it is best to get assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney. If someone cannot afford an attorney, s/he may contact a bar association for a referral to low cost or free legal services.
There is no shame in having made a mistake in the past so a person should try to get an expungement of criminal records when possible. It’s like the movie The Girlfriend Experience. The main character thinks nobody does what she does. She’s a Manhattan prostitute. In a recession, no one is special. Everyone does what she does. Clearing records of minor crimes is the way to go when money is the medium for human affairs.
The New Jersey Administrative Office of the Courts publishes materials for use by self-represented litigants to teach them how to locate criminal records to prepare an expungement petition and prove eligibility.