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What Charges Can Be Expunged in New Jersey?

August 10, 2023 | Posted In Criminal Law |

When you get charged with a crime or other offense in New Jersey, your charge goes on your permanent record. Having a charge (or charges) on your permanent record can negatively impact your life in numerous ways, and it can prevent you from successfully pursuing various opportunities—from going to college to landing a well-paying job. Getting your criminal record expunged can make these consequences go away.

However, in New Jersey, not all charges are eligible for expungement. Additionally, filing for expungement is a process that takes time and is best handled by an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer. As a result, you don’t want to start the process if it doesn’t make sense to do so. Likewise, while it is important to fight your charges in all circumstances, if your charges aren’t eligible for expungement, this is an additional factor you will need to consider when deciding how to approach your defense.  

When Can You File for Expungement in New Jersey?

So, what charges can be expunged in New Jersey? Unfortunately, the answer to this question isn’t particularly straightforward. In fact, New Jersey’s expungement laws are among the most confusing in the nation—and this is yet another reason to speak with an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer when you are weighing your options.

With this in mind, here are some of the key facts you need to know:

1. Traffic Offenses vs. Criminal Offenses

The first thing you need to know is whether you have been charged with a traffic offense or a criminal offense. While this will be fairly obvious in some cases (i.e., going 10 mph over the speed limit is clearly a traffic offense, while assault and robbery are clearly crimes), there are some areas where the nature of your charge can be less clear.

Most notably, driving under the influence (DUI) is classified as a traffic offense in New Jersey. While DUI is a crime in many other jurisdictions, this isn’t the case in the Garden State.

Why does this matter? In New Jersey, traffic offenses are not eligible for expungement. So, if you got arrested for speeding, careless driving, reckless driving, DUI or any other traffic offense, your record will stay with you for the rest of your life. While the look-back period for being prosecuted as a repeat offender (or “habitual offender”) is limited, the ancillary effects of your charge will endure long after you have dealt with the judicial consequences of your arrest.

2. Crimes That Aren’t Eligible for Expungement

While many criminal charges are eligible for expungement in New Jersey, not all charges can be expunged. For example, if you have an arrest or conviction for any of the following under New Jersey state law, filing for expungement is not an option: 

  • Armed robbery
  • Arson
  • Drug trafficking (first and second-degree)
  • Endangering the welfare of a child (when it involves child porn or sex-related charges)
  • Kidnapping
  • Manslaughter
  • Murder
  • Perjury
  • Sexual assault (and aggravated sexual assault)
  • Conspiracy to commit any crime that is ineligible for expungement

This list is not exclusive—there are various other crimes that are ineligible for expungement in New Jersey as well. When you contact a New Jersey criminal lawyer to discuss your case, your lawyer can tell you if your charge (or charges) can be expunged.

3. Crimes That Are Eligible for Expungement

So, which crimes are eligible for expungement in New Jersey? Fortunately, many of the most common criminal charges fall into this category. For example, all of the following charges can be expunged under New Jersey law:

  • Disorderly conduct
  • Drug possession
  • Illegal weapon possession
  • Simple assault
  • Vehicular homicide
  • Other types of child endangerment that do not involve child porn or sex-related charges)
  • Third and fourth-degree drug distribution

Here too, this list isn’t exclusive. These are just some of the most common types of expungement cases we handle. If you have questions about filing for expungement in New Jersey, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information.

4. Federal Crimes

What if you are dealing with a federal charge in New Jersey? Generally speaking, federal charges are not eligible for expungement. There are a few exceptions (i.e., charges for minor offenses under the Controlled Substances Act), but in most cases, a federal charge will stay on your record unless you are able to obtain a pardon or other post-conviction relief.

5. Timing When Filing for Expungement in New Jersey

If you are dealing with a state criminal charge in New Jersey, in addition to determining whether your charge is eligible for expungement, you will also need to determine if enough time has passed that you now qualify to file. As the New Jersey Courts explain:

“In most cases, you must wait 5 years after your sentence is served. All fines and fees must be paid. Sometimes, you can file for expungement after 4 years. You can expunge no more than one indictable conviction and up to three disorderly persons offenses or petty disorderly persons offenses.” To be clear, the time period for expunging a crime is 4 years for good cause and 5 years for eligible convictions. The time does not begin to run until one’s probation or parole is done, including the payment of all outstanding fines.

However, there are several exceptions. For example, the New Jersey Revised Statutes include special provisions for expungement of certain marijuana-related offenses, and if your arrest did not result in a conviction, you can seek expungement immediately. New Jersey law also provides for a “Clean Slate Expungement” which allows you to clear your entire record “10 years after your last conviction, payment of fines/fees, completion of probation/parole, whichever is later.” That said, one can get a Clean Slate expungement for multiple crime convictions 10 years after the probation/parole/conviction (whichever is later), provided one does not have a conviction for a crime that is not expungable.

What Are Your Next Steps?

Due to the complexity of New Jersey’s expungement laws, it is important not to make any assumptions about whether (or when) you can file for expungement. Additionally, even if you aren’t eligible for expungement, you may have other options available. To ensure that you are making informed decisions with your long-term best interests in mind, you should discuss your situation with an experienced New Jersey criminal lawyer.

Speak with a New Jersey Criminal Lawyer About Filing for Expungement

Would you like to discuss your options with a New Jersey criminal lawyer? If so, we encourage you to get in touch. To request an appointment with an experienced lawyer at Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, P.A., please call 877-435-6371 or tell us how we can contact you online today.

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