ROBERT B. SPAWN reports on recent changes in New Jersey regarding the expungement of criminal records.
A recently-enacted New Jersey law has made it easier for people to expunge (i.e., remove) certain types of charges from their criminal records. Noteworthy changes are listed below:
Prior to the passage of this law, a person seeking to remove a criminal conviction would have to wait ten years before becoming eligible to petition the Court for an expungement. Under the new law, this waiting period has been shortened to six years.
The Court can now remove four disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses from a person’s record. The old expungement law only allowed the Court to remove three such offenses.
The old law stated that interdependent charges committed during the same crime spree or within a short window of time could be considered one “episode,” and, in turn, one conviction for the purposes of expungement. The new law maintains this rule, and further states that any charges disposed of simultaneously can similarly qualify as a single “episode” and a single conviction.
Previously, a person’s participation in a pretrial intervention program (“PTI”) for a specific charge prevented that person from expunging any other charges incurred at any point in time. This rule, called the “PTI Bar,” has been removed.
The new law allows a judge to expunge third-and fourth-degree felony drug distribution charges (e.g., intending to sell less than an ounce of marijuana) if doing so would be “consistent with the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the petitioner’s character and conduct since conviction.”
Under the old law, a person could only petition the Court for an expungement if he or she had paid all restitution and fees. Now, as long as a petitioner is making a good faith effort to address outstanding costs, the Court has the discretion to grant expungement even in the absence of full payment.
A juvenile now only has to wait three (as opposed to five) years before being eligible to petition the Court for expungement.
An employer can no longer inquire into expunged records during a potential employee’s initial application process.
Please contact Robert B. Spawn if you have any questions or need assistance in connection with this subject.