Quick Tips: New Expungement Changes in New Jersey
By: Devon Jones
Tip #1. How long is the waiting period for indictable offenses?
Prior to the expungement changes in New Jersey, an individual with a prior indictable (i.e. felony) conviction had to wait ten years before becoming qualified for an expungement. Under the new law, the ten year waiting period may be reduced to five years if (1) the petitioner has paid his or her fines; (2) the petitioner has not subsequently been convicted of a crime or disorderly persons offense; (3) the Court finds that granting the expungement is in the public interest. In investigating the third factor, the Court will consider the nature of the offense and the applicant’s character and conduct post-conviction.
Tip #2. Can a petitioner be disqualified from having an indictable conviction expunged if fines are not paid?
Previously, a petitioner was banded from having an indictable conviction expunged if court-imposed fines had not been paid. Fortunately, if ten years or more have passed since an indictable conviction and fines have not been paid, a petitioner can still have his record expunged if (1) the Court finds that the petitioner noticeably complied with a court ordered payment plan; or (2) the petitioner could not pay his or her fines because of “compelling circumstances.” In determining whether “compelling circumstances” exist, the Court will consider the petitioner’s age, the amount of the fine, and other relevant circumstances.
Tip #3. How long is the waiting period for juvenile ex-offenders?
Previously, a juvenile needed to wait five years from the time their sentence that was issued by the judge was finished in order to have their juvenile record removed. Under the new law, the waiting period begins from the time the juvenile was adjudicated, rather than when the sentence was completed. Ultimately, this new law has the best interest of the juvenile in mind.
Tip #4. Is it true that third and fourth degree drug possession and drug distribution offenses may be expunged?
Under the old expungement statute, third and fourth degree drug possession or drug distribution charges could only be expunged in matters where the illegal substance was marijuana or hashish. Now, a conviction for third or fourth degree possession or distribution of any controlled dangerous substance can be removed if the court finds an expungement is consistent with the public interest. Similar to other indictable offenses, the Court will consider the nature of the offense and the applicant’s character and conduct since the conviction.
Tip #5. Are any new crimes barred from expungement?
The new statute bars the following crimes from being expunged: (1) causing/permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act; (2) selling/manufacturing child pornography; (3) knowingly promoting the prostitution of the actor’s child; (4) terrorism; and (5) possessing or producing chemical, biological, nuclear, radioactive weapons.