New Jersey Criminal Record Expungements - Basics
In New Jersey, criminal records can be "expunged". Expungement is the process for removal and isolation of all criminal related records on file within any part of the legal system. This includes courts, detention and correctional facilities, law enforcement and juvenile justice. Expungement covers records of apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or results of an offense. Generally, if an order for expungement is granted, your adult and juvenile arrest(s) or custody are considered to have never occurred.
Expungements are typically granted on the bases of false arrests, acquittals at trial or appeal, and "youthful indiscretion" or rehabilitation of character.
It is important to note, however, that expunged records are segregated, not destroyed. Thus, if a typical criminal record search is performed, records kept in these special locations are not supposed to be accessed, so the results of a search of official government databases, such as the courts or the FBI, will come back "No Record Found". Additionally, after an expungement order, a person is legally entitled to accurately state that the arrest or conviction never happened. Accordingly, the person may fairly confidently answer questions that would previously have caused loss of opportunity or reputation.
Once records are expunged, employment applications to be a teacher need not recite expunged matters. The same is true for employment applications to be a real estate broker, a stock broker, a banker, a hospital worker, a computer programmer, a taxi driver, a barber, or anything else, just so long as the background check or record check is not being performed by law enforcement or the court system.
Applications to obtain professional licenses (other than to practice law) no longer need to acknowledge criminal court proceedings that have been expunged. In New Jersey, anyone denied a professional license may apply for reconsideration two years after expungement. A reapplication needs to include a "Certificate of Rehabilitation", certifying they have achieved a degree of rehabilitation. After the court expunges a criminal record, it also no longer "exists" for purposes of adopting a child or (generally) of harming immigration status. If you apply for admission to most professional schools (except law school) or a professional organization, the expungement is also meant to be completely effective. Keep in mind, however, that many schools, such as medical programs, may follow a state's laws other than New Jersey's, or the rules may have changed since the expungement, requiring you to seek legal advice.
There are also unexpected benefits to expungement. An expungement can improve your credit, help with housing applications, and restore student loan eligibility.
Exceptions: There always exists the possibility that a mistake may be made in your expungement, and the record is not properly blocked. This is why you need to periodically check your own background to be sure the expungement is effective. Federal courts also may refuse to be bound by a state court's expungement order. Thus, while an ordinary records search should not turn up your criminal record, under three exceptions an expungement is only limited in effect. These exceptions are:
- When a person is applying for employment with a law enforcement agency or in the judicial branch of government.
- Expungement will also not apply when a person is seeking a conditional discharge of charges after a dismissal under a previous conditional discharge has been expunged.
- Expunged records are still accessible during sentencing for convictions for new offenses. Records stored in these special locations are consulted in those cases.
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