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LAW Home > Legal Topics > Criminal Charges and Convictions > Reentry > Expungement

How to Correct Mistakes on Your Criminal Record


If you have a criminal record and are planning to apply for a job, it is a good idea to get a copy of your criminal record before you apply. That way, you will be able to answer any questions thoroughly, accurately, and honestly. Another good reason to request a copy of your rap sheet is that it may contain incomplete entries or mistakes and can make your criminal record look worse than it actually is. A criminal record may list an arrest but not say whether you pleaded guilty, were acquitted, or had the charges dismissed. Sometimes the rap sheet will contain multiple entries for one arrest.  Getting a copy of your criminal record will also help you determine whether you are eligible for an expungement.

Step 1: How to obtain your criminal record

For details, please see How Can I Get a Copy of My Criminal History Record?

Step 2: Review your criminal record

When you receive your criminal record, you should review it carefully. If you notice any mistakes, you must go to the court where the case was heard and a disposition was rendered and obtain a copy of the Judgment of Conviction or disposition (JOC) from the court with the correct information. For every mistake that you find on your record, you need to obtain the JOC from the clerk of the court in which that case was heard. (If the JOC is incorrect, you may need an attorney to help you amend the judgment.)

When you receive the JOC, you may send it to the Criminal Information Unit, along with a cover letter explaining how the information on the criminal record differs from that on the JOC.

Criminal Information Unit
New Jersey State Police
P.O. Box 7068
West Trenton, NJ 08628

The Criminal Information Unit ‘s telephone number is 609-882-2000, ext. 2918.  The agency will work with you on a case-by-case basis to correct any and all mistakes or incomplete entries.  

Step 3: If you have a criminal record outside of New Jersey

If you have a criminal history outside of New Jersey, it may be a good idea to obtain an FBI record, through a process that is similar to the one described above. To request a copy of the FBI record, write to:

U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Criminal Justice Information
Services Division
1000 Custer Hollow Road
Clarksburg, WV 26306

The cover letter must state that you are requesting a copy of your criminal record under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Also, the cover letter should include your name, address, and date of birth. You will also need to enclose a current fingerprint card which you can complete at a local law enforcement agency. The FBI charges an $18 processing fee, which is payable to the U.S. Treasurer, by money order, certified bank check, or credit card. If you cannot afford to pay the fee, you should send a notarized letter explaining the reason why you cannot afford it. The fee may be waived.

Credit report errors

Many employers use credit reports as a means of a background check. Your credit report contains information about where you live, whether you were involved in a lawsuit, filed for bankruptcy, are delinquent with paying your bills, and whether you have been arrested.

It is important to review your credit report regularly to make sure that the information is accurate and complete, because the information may prevent identity theft and may affect whether you can get a loan or a job.

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) is intended to protect consumers from having inaccurate information circulated. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the credit laws that protect your right to get, use, and maintain credit.

How can I get a copy of my credit report?

Under the FCRA, you are entitled to a copy of your credit report at your request, once every 12 months, from the consumer reporting agencies. The three nationwide consumer reporting agencies are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. To access a free credit report, the three nationwide agencies have created one Web site. To order a free annual report, you can visit AnnualCreditReport, call 1-877-322-8228.

You will need to give them your name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.

You may also be eligible for a free credit report if a company denies your application for credit, insurance, or employment based on information in your report. You must ask for the report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action. The notice should give you the name, address, and phone number of the consumer reporting agency. 

How can I correct errors on my credit report?

Once you have received a copy, it is important to check the report for any errors. If you find any, you should write to the consumer reporting agency and explain what you think is wrong. Also, it is important to include your name and address. If you have documents that support your position, it is important to send copies to the consumer reporting agencies. The Federal Trade Commission has a sample dispute letter that you can use. (Copy of the sample dispute letter). Send your letter by certified mail, return receipt requested. It is important to keep copies of the letter and enclosures.

The consumer reporting agencies are required to investigate claims within 30 days. The consumer reporting agencies are also required to inform a company of any inaccurate information it provided. The company is required to investigate, review the relevant information, and report the result back to the consumer reporting agencies. If the company finds that the information is inaccurate, it must notify all three nationwide consumer reporting agencies—Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian—so that they can correct your record.

If your credit report was sent to potential lenders and employers within the past six months, you must ask the consumer reporting agency to send notices of any corrections to anyone who received a copy of the report.
If the investigation does not resolve your dispute, you can ask that a statement of the dispute be included in all future reports. You can also ask the consumer reporting agency to provide your statement to anyone who received a copy of your report in the recent past. There is a fee for this request.

To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit the Federal Trade Commission Web site or call 1-877-FTC-HELP or 1-877-382-4357.

Sample Dispute Letter


Your Name 
Your Address,
City, State, Zip Code

Complaint Department
Name of Company
City, State, Zip Code

Dear Sir or Madam:

I am writing to dispute the following information in my file. I have circled the items I dispute on the attached copy of the report I received.

This item [identify item(s) disputed by name of source, such as creditors or tax court, and identify type of item, such as credit account, judgment, etc.] is inaccurate [or incomplete] because [describe what is inaccurate or incomplete and why]. I am requesting that the item be removed [or request another specific change] to correct the information.

Enclosed are copies of [use this sentence if applicable and describe any enclosed documentation, such as payment records or court documents] supporting my position. Please reinvestigate this [these] matter[s] and delete [or correct] the disputed item[s] as soon as possible.


Your name

Enclosures: [List what you are enclosing]​​​​​​​​​​