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Expungements – Changes to the Law Effective October 2018

Recent changes to the Expungement Statutes are designed to shorten waiting periods and expand eligibility for expungements.  Disorderly person’s offenses are those which had been handled in Municipal Court.  Crimes are those addressed in Superior Court.  Before an expungement complaint is filed, it is necessary to have an official Criminal Case History.

This will identify the Applicant’s history of crimes and offenses for which he/she has pled or been found guilty.

One Time Limit:  There is a one-time limit on a person receiving an expungement involving any criminal conviction.  There is a one-time limit for receiving an expungement for multiple disorderly persons offenses, which convictions were entered the same day because the convictions consisted of a one-time “crime spree”.  Certain convictions cannot be expunged.  These are criminal homicide, kidnapping, luring, sexual assault crimes, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, robbery, arson, endangering the welfare of a child and other serious convictions.

EligibilitySale, Distribution, Possession with Intent, Marijuana & Hash, special eligibility to young drug offender under 22 years of age.

With respect to criminal convictions for the sale, distribution, or possession with intent to sell marijuana or hashish, the statue amends the expungement law to establish general expungement eligibility for low-level offenders consistent with how such an offenders’ crimes are graded under the State’s Criminal Code.  This consistency would also apply to a young low-level offender (younger than 22 years old) who is granted special eligibility to make an expungement application after one year from the date of the convictions, termination of probation or parole, or discharge from custody, whichever date is later in time.  Eligibility will be extended to all such convicted offenders when the crime is graded as a crime of the fourth degree, based on the amount of the drug as follows:

  • Less than one ounce of marijuana (the current law provides eligibility for a smaller amount, 25 grams (0.89 ounce) or less); or
  • Less than five grams (less than 0.17 ounce) of hashish (the current law provides eligibility for a slightly higher amount of five grams (0.17 ounce) or less).

This is particularly helpful to a young offender who needs a clean record for his/her future.

ONE OR MORE CRIMINAL CONVICTIONS

Concerning the expungement of one or more criminal convictions, the statute sets forth the following categories of eligible persons:

  • A person who has been convicted of one crime, and does not otherwise have any prior or subsequent conviction for another crime;
  • A person who has been convicted of one crime and fewer than four disorderly persons or petty disorderly offenses, and does not otherwise have any prior or subsequent conviction for another crime or for another disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense such that the total number of convictions for offenses exceeds three;
  • A person who has been convicted of multiple crimes, or a combination of multiple crimes and disorderly person or petty disorderly persons offenses, all of which are listed in a single judgment of conviction, and the person does not otherwise have any prior or subsequent conviction for another crime or offense in addition to those convictions included in the person’s expungement application; or
  • A person who has been convicted of multiple crimes or a combination of multiple crimes and disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses, which crimes or combination of crimes and offenses were interdependent or closely related in circumstances and were committed as part of a sequence of events that took place within a comparatively short period of time (a so-called “crime spree”), regardless of the date of conviction; or
  • Sentencing for each individual crime or offense, and the person does not otherwise have any prior or subsequent conviction for another crime or offense in addition to those convictions included in the person’s expungement application.

The new expungement statutes have expanded the convictions eligible for expungement.

Time Periods Reduced

If a person with one or more criminal convictions is eligible as described above for expungement relief, the expungement application may generally proceed so long as one of the following time period requirements is met:

  • Six years have passed with respect to all aspects of satisfying the most recent conviction (six years from the date of conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, and release from incarceration);
  • The payment of a fine, which is currently subject to collection under the State’s comprehensive enforcement program established pursuant to P.L.1995, c.9 (C.2B:19-1 et seq.), is not yet satisfied due to reasons other than willful misconduct, but the six-year time requirement is otherwise met.
  • The fine is satisfied, but six years have not passed since doing so, and the six-year time requirement is otherwise met; or
  • At least five but less than six years have passed with respect to all aspects of satisfying the conviction (this expedited expungement would also require, as it does under current law, the person to show that it is in the public interest to permit such expungement).

Expansion and Clarification of the Concept of a “fine”

As expressed in the statute, the term “fine”, in reference to measuring any applicable time period requirement for determining the satisfaction thereof, means and includes any fine, restitution, and other court-ordered financial assessment imposed by the Court as part of the sentence for the conviction, for which payment of restitution takes precedence in accordance with applicable law.

An expungement does not guarantee that the record will entirely disappear.  The expunged records do not disappear.   They are filed differently and not available for routine inquiries.  If the offense was reported in the media or on the internet or your relatives and people know about it, it does not go away.  If a person is running for public office, it is likely that a prior arrest and convictions will be exposed; however, for many purposes, such as getting a job where no security clearance is needed, getting into college, it is helpful to have the criminal record expunged.

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