Thousands of citizens in New Jersey over the past 20 years have been arrested for criminal, disorderly, and municipal ordinance offenses. They may include your neighbors, friends and loyal church worshipers. The police keep a record of all arrests and convictions, even if 20 years old. These "secrets of the past" will soon be open to anyone in New Jersey including credit agencies. Under a proposal by the New Jersey Attorney General, for a $15.00 fee, anybody could ask the state police for a person's criminal record, even arrests with not guilty findings. Allowing access to a person's old criminal conviction or arrest record could open the door for discrimination against someone who now is a productive, respected, and law abiding citizen.
Fortunately, if you are a law abiding citizen, you can now have old arrests or convictions erased from public records and police folders. Under NJSA 2C:52-1 et seq. past criminal convictions can be expunged' erased under certain instances. For example, if you were convicted or pleaded guilty to a disorderly person offense (misdemeanor type) more than 5 years ago, and have not been convicted of anything since, you can have your attorney petition to the Superior Court for an Expungement (Erase and removal) of your criminal record. If you plead guilty to a town ordinance (ex. - Seaside Heights Drinking in Public) you can petition for an Expungement after waiting two years. A Juvenile delinquent/guilty finding for a minor can also be expunged/erased under similar circumstances. In addition, minor drug arrests which resulted in first offender conditional discharge can be erased if one year has passed since termination of probation or conclusion of court proceedings.
Most importantly, arrests on frivolous complaints which did not result in a conviction or if charges were dismissed, can be expunged, without waiting. THE EXPUNGEMENT PETITION
You should contact an attorney experienced with handling expungements in the Superior Court. Your attorney will prepare an expungement petition which under state law must contain substantial background information, including:
a. Date of Birth and Social Security #
b. Date of Arrest
c. Statute Arrested For and Statute Convicted
d. Original Indictment, Summons, or Complaint Number
e. Petitioner's Date of Conviction or Date of Disposition
f. Court's Disposition of the Matter and Punishment Adopted, if Any
In addition, the Expungement Petition must have an affidavit that states that there are no charges pending and that the petitioner never previously received a prior expungement. The Expungement Petition is filed in the county where the offense took place, not where the defendant lives. Once filed, the Superior Court will set a hearing within 35-60 days.
As required under the statute, the attorney for the applicant must serve a copy of the Petition Order for hearing and supporting documents on the following people:
1. Superintendent of State Police 2. Attorney General 3. County Prosecutor of the county where the court is located 4. The Chief of Police where the event took place 5. The chief law enforcement officer of any law enforcement agency which participated in the arrest 6. The warden of any institution where the petitioner was confined, and 7. If the disposition was made by a municipal court, upon the municipal court which heard the case.
If you satisfy all other statutory requirements and there is no objection by the entities notified, the court will usually grant an order directing the clerk of the court and all relevant criminal justice and law enforcement agencies to expunge (remove) records of said disposition including evidence of arrest, detention, conviction, and proceedings.
There are additional pleadings which the applicant's attorney must prepare and file. If you have an old offense, it is important that you have the arrest expunged to keep your name and record clean.
Expungement statute was reviewed in recent cases
2C:52-1. Definition of expungement a. Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, expungement shall mean the extraction and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person's detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system.
b. Expunged records shall include complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, processing records, fingerprints, photographs, index cards, "rap sheets" and judicial docket records.
L.1979, c. 178, s. 108, eff. Sept. 1, 1979.
2C:52-2. Indictable offenses 2C:52-2. Indictable Offenses.
a. In all cases, except as herein provided, where