New Law will Make Erasing your Record Quicker and Easier
By early spring, anyone convicted of a crime in New Jersey will find it significantly less challenging to clear their criminal history. Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that will make it easier for individuals to seek an expungement. The new law cuts the waiting periods and makes various changes to the procedures and requirements. It will give New Jersey residents that have been arrested or convicted of a crime more opportunities to receive a fresh start and leave past mistakes behind.
A criminal record can negatively affect the ability to get a job, rent an apartment, or even get a loan. These obstacles make it nearly impossible for individuals to successfully reintegrate back into society. Supporters of the bill hope that it will help convicts find jobs and prevent recidivism.
What is an Expungement?
The question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” on an application has the ability to turn a great opportunity into a lost chance depending on the answer. An expungement allows you to confidently and legally answer, “NO!” when asked this.
An expungement won’t completely erase your history, but it at least requires all law enforcement agencies to seal your record of that particular incident. By doing so, any searches performed through official government databases will come back with no record information. Ultimately, that means once judge signs the expungement order, your criminal record has been expunged and you are legally entitled to state that the arrest or conviction never happened.
The previous law required a lengthy waiting period before a person was eligible for an expungement. Under the new bill, a person convicted of a felony will only have to wait five years to clear their records of the felony offense. In the past, those individuals were required to wait a minimum of ten years after the date that the judge imposes sentence, the date they pay all fines, the date they successfully complete parole or probation, or the date they complete their sentence, whichever comes last.
The waiting period for expunging a disorderly persons offense or a petty disorderly persons offense has been reduced from five years to three years. Although these misdemeanor-level offenses are not as serious as felonies, a conviction for theft or drug offenses can carry a stigma that can follow you for a very long time.
The recent legislation will also allow drug court graduates to have their records expunged.
Under current law, serious crimes cannot be expunged. This includes terrorism, sexual assault, homicide, kidnapping, and other violent offenses. Individuals convicted of such crimes will still not be eligible for an expungement under the new legislation.
A past indiscretion shouldn’t hold you back from achieving your goals—the past is the past after all. If you are ready to turn over a new leaf, give us a call today at The Law Office of Zapicchi & Liller: phone 609-291-9500. We’re happy to assist you in any way we can.