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Criminal Charges and Convictions
Changes to Expungement Law Good News for Rehabilitated Drug Offenders

Changes to New Jersey’s expungement law are a step in the right direction. Below are some specific changes that will help many individuals looking for a fresh start.

Drug Court Graduates

The biggest change in the law affects people who have completed a drug court or court-ordered rehabilitation program. If this situation applies to you, your entire record will automatically be expunged (cleared) when you graduate from the program.

The court will grant expungement as long as:

  • You have no pending charges;
  • You have not been convicted of a non-expungeable offense (See Clearing Your Record: A Six-Step Guide to Expunging Criminal Records in New Jersey for more information);
  • The need for your records to be available to the public does not outweigh the court’s desire to grant your expungement; and
  • You have not committed any crimes or offenses during or any crimes after your completion of the program.

There are no fees associated with this expungement, and it will happen automatically if you complete drug court after April 18, 2016 (the day this law takes effect). If you completed drug court before April 18, 2016, your expungement won’t happen automatically, but you may make a request for expungement and the waiting periods previously associated with those applications will no longer apply.

Expungement of Indictable and Disorderly Person’s Convictions

Another change allows people with one indictable conviction and up to two disorderly persons convictions to expunge their entire record. A conviction for an indictable offense no longer disqualifies you from expunging disorderly persons convictions.

In addition, those having disorderly persons convictions may be eligible for early pathway expungement. Early pathway expungement permits the court to expunge a record of disorderly persons convictions before the end of the waiting period if

  • At least three years have passed since your latest conviction, payment of fine, release from incarceration, successful completion of probation or parole—whichever is later;
  • There were no new indictable, disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions; and
  • The court decides that expungement is in the public interest

The court will consider the nature of the offense and the offender’s character and conduct since conviction. Previously, this type of relief was only available for people with indictable convictions. Now, it is also available to those with disorderly persons convictions.

A separate petition is required for each conviction, but you may file multiple petitions in a single application. You must file your petition in the county where the indictable conviction was heard. If there was no indictable conviction, the petition must be filed where the most recent disorderly persons conviction was entered.

Automatic Expungement of Dismissed Cases

Beginning April 18, 2016, the Superior Court will automatically expunge records of arrests, case dismissals, and acquittals that do not lead to a conviction. For municipal court matters, the expungement will not happen automatically, but you may re quest an expungement application from municipal court and send it to the Superior Court. There are no fees associated with this expungement.

If you had a case dismissed before April 18, 2016, you will need to apply for expungement. It will not happen automatically.

Identity Theft

Another law, effective March 1, 2016, authorizes deleting, sealing, or labelling certain records of identity theft victims. Specifically, victims of identity theft may petition the court for a conviction or pending charge if

  • The perpetrator was arrested, cited for, or convicted of a crime, offense, or violation under the victim’s identity;
  • A complaint for a crime, offense, or violation has been filed against the perpetrator in the victim’s name; or
  • The victim’s identity has been mistakenly associated with a record of conviction.

The bill also permits the Motor Vehicle Commission to amend driver history records of identity theft victims and refund insurance premiums.

LSNJ’s Prisoner Reentry Project assists eligible inmates and those with criminal records to successfully transition back into society. A toolkit including forms, videos, and a manual is available at the Expungement page. If you need additional assistance, you may contact LSNJLAWSM, Legal Services of New Jersey's statewide, toll-free legal hotline, at 1-888-LSNJ-LAW (1-888-576-5529). You may also apply online. If you are not eligible for assistance from Legal Services, the hotline will refer you to other possible resources​​​​​​​

3/25/2016