On January 19, 2016, Governor Chris Christie signed into law, legislation that reforms several aspects regarding expungements in New Jersey. The new law shortens the time period that persons with certain criminal records have to wait before they become eligible for the expungement of their records. Expungements are critical for people seeking to clear their prior criminal and arrest records and press the all-important “reset” button. The new law will become effective April 18, 2016.
The new expungement law lessens the statutory time period for a person with a criminal conviction to have to wait before applying for an expungement. The previous waiting period was ten (10) years. Now, the expungement of a criminal conviction requires a waiting period of only five (5) years from the date of the person’s last conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration before that person can petition for an expungement. Additionally, for persons with disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses, the waiting period is reduced from five (5) years to three (3) years.
Additionally, certain persons who successfully participate and complete the New Jersey special probation drug court program are eligible to have their conviction record expunged. The court may also order the expungement of all records and information related to all prior criminal records, arrests, convictions and proceedings under the New Jersey Criminal Code.
Finally, the new law provides an easier, more simplified expungement process for persons who were arrested, but ultimately had their charges dismissed, discharged, or were acquitted. If the person who was arrested, had their proceedings occur within the Superior Court, then the court, at the time of the dismissal, discharge, or acquittal will order the expungement of all records and information relating to the arrest or charge, automatically. In the municipal court, a person who was arrested and had the charges dismissed, discharged, or were acquitted, may then request the appropriate documentation from the municipal court to send to the Superior Court to request an expungement. The Superior Court would then take action to ensure the expungement of all records and information related to the arrest and the petitioner would not be charged an application fee for taking such action.
While it is most desirable to remain a law-abiding citizen, all too often it is easy to run afoul of the law. Just because a person has been arrested does not mean that they are a hardened criminal. Most of the time it is simply a good person making a bad choice. This one bad choice should not bar them from ever regaining normalcy. Though the new expungement laws do not allow all arrests or convictions to be expunged, they certainly make it easier for certain persons to remove prior indiscretions and press the “reset” button.
Matthew R. Tavares focuses his practice in Litigation, Employment Law, Workers Compensation and Municipal Court matters. He is a trained mediator and has successfully mediated small claims and special civil part matters.
Mr. Tavares received his Juris Doctor from Western New England University School of Law in 2013, and obtained licensure in New Jersey in the same year. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in American History and Criminal Justice in 2010 from the University of Delaware. Matt is a member of the Hunterdon County Bar Association, is a member of the New Jersey State Bar Association. Matthew was sworn in as a member of the New York State Bar in February 2016.
You may contact Matt at (908) 751-1551, or email@example.com.