I often have clients call me about a potential expungement of their criminal record. Expungements depend on the original charge(s), the number of charges on your record, and the time elapsed since the conviction.
The New Jersey statute which governs the expungement of indictable (felony) convictions is N.J.S. 2C:52-2 which provides in pertinent part:
N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2. Indictable offenses
a. In all cases, except as herein provided, wherein a person has been convicted of a crime under the laws of this State and who has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent crime, whether within this State or any other jurisdiction, and has not been adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person on more than two occasions may, after the expiration of a period of 10 years from the date of his conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, whichever is later, present a duly verified petition as provided in section 2C:52-7 to the Superior Court in the county in which the conviction was entered praying that such conviction and all records and information pertaining thereto be expunged.
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph, a petition may be filed and presented, and the court may grant an expungement pursuant to this section, although less than 10 years has expired in accordance with the requirements of the preceding paragraph where the court finds:
(1) less than 10 years has expired from the satisfaction of a fine, but the 10-year time requirement is otherwise satisfied, and the court finds that the person substantially complied with any payment plan ordered pursuant to N.J.S.2C:46-1 et seq., or could not do so due to compelling circumstances affecting his ability to satisfy the fine; or
(2) at least five years has expired from the date of his conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, whichever is later; the person has not been convicted of a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense since the time of the conviction; and the court finds in its discretion that expungement is in the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense, and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction.
In determining whether compelling circumstances exist for the purposes of paragraph (1) of this subsection, a court may consider the amount of the fine or fines imposed, the person’s age at the time of the offense, the person’s financial condition and other relevant circumstances regarding the person’s ability to pay.
Although subsequent convictions for no more than two disorderly or petty disorderly offenses shall not be an absolute bar to relief, the nature of those conviction or convictions and the circumstances surrounding them shall be considered by the court and may be a basis for denial of relief if they or either of them constitute a continuation of the type of unlawful activity embodied in the criminal conviction for which expungement is sought.
b. Records of conviction pursuant to statutes repealed by this Code for the crimes of murder, manslaughter, treason, anarchy, kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, arson, perjury, false swearing, robbery, embracery, or a conspiracy or any attempt to commit any of the foregoing, or aiding, assisting or concealing persons accused of the foregoing crimes, shall not be expunged.
Records of conviction for the following crimes specified in the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice shall not be subject to expungement: Section 2C:11-1 et seq.(Criminal Homicide), except death by auto as specified in section 2C:11-5; section 2C:13-1 (Kidnapping); section 2C:13-6 (Luring or Enticing); section 1 of P.L.2005, c. 77 (C.2C:13-8) (Human Trafficking); section 2C:14-2 (Aggravated Sexual Assault); section 2C:14-3a (Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact); if the victim is a minor, section 2C:14-3b (Criminal Sexual Contact); if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim, section 2C:13-2 (Criminal Restraint) or section 2C:13-3 (False Imprisonment); section 2C:15-1 (Robbery); section 2C:17-1 (Arson and Related Offenses); section 2C:24-4a. (Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child); section 2C:24-4b(4) (Endangering the welfare of a child); section 2C:24-4b. (3) (Causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act); section 2C:24-4 b.(5)(a) (Selling or manufacturing child pornography); section 2C:28-1 (Perjury);section 2C:28-2 (False Swearing); section 2C:34-1b.(4) (Knowingly promoting the prostitution of the actor’s child); section 2 of P.L.2002, c. 26 (C.2C:38-2) (Terrorism); subsection a. of section 3 of P.L.2002, c. 26 (C.2C:38-3) (Producing or Possessing Chemical Weapons, Biological Agents or Nuclear or Radiological Devices); and conspiracies or attempts to commit such crimes.
Records of conviction for any crime committed by a person holding any public office, position or employment, elective or appointive, under the government of this State or any agency or political subdivision thereof and any conspiracy or attempt to commit such a crime shall not be subject to expungement if the crime involved or touched such office, position or employment.
c. In the case of conviction for the sale or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance or possession thereof with intent to sell, expungement shall be denied except where the crimes involve:
(1) Marijuana, where the total quantity sold, distributed or possessed with intent to sell was 25 grams or less;
(2) Hashish, where the total quantity sold, distributed or possessed with intent to sell was five grams or less; or
(3) Any controlled dangerous substance provided that the conviction is of the third or fourth degree, where the court finds that expungement is consistent with the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the petitioner’s character and conduct since conviction.
d. In the case of a State licensed physician or podiatrist convicted of an offense involving drugs or alcohol or pursuant to section 14 or 15 of P.L. 1989, c. 300(C.2C:21-20 or 2C:21-4.1), the court shall notify the State Board of Medical Examiners upon receipt of a petition for expungement of the conviction and records and information pertaining thereto.
Analysis of the Statute
As the above listed statute states, a Defendant is only permitted to expunge one (1) Indictable Conviction from their criminal record. However, a Defendant may also expunge up to two (2) separate Disorderly Persons Offenses from criminal record as well provided that the Defendant was convicted of the Disorderly Persons Offense(s) prior to the Indictable Conviction. Unfortunately, the statute mandates that a Defendant must wait ten (10) years before they may petition the courts for an expungement. With that being said, there is an exception within the statute which may allow for a Defendant to file for an expungement within five (5) years.
The New Jersey Legislatures have prohibited the following crimes from being expunged from ones record:
a. Criminal Homicide; except death by auto
b. Luring or Enticing
c. Human Trafficking
d. Aggravated Sexual Assault
e. Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact; if the victim is a minor,
f. Criminal Sexual Contact; if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim
g. Criminal Restraint
h. False Imprisonment
j. Arson and Related Offenses
k. Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child
l. Endangering the welfare of a child
m. Causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act
n. Selling or manufacturing child pornography
p. False Swearing
q. Knowingly promoting the prostitution of the actor’s child
s. Producing or Possessing Chemical Weapons, Biological Agents or Nuclear or Radiological Devices
t. Conspiracies or attempts to commit all of the aforementioned crimes.
Also, the New Jersey Legislature has carved out special exceptions when an a Defendant is charged with distribution of a controlled dangerous substances and/or possession of a controlled dangerous substances with the intent to sell.