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What Is The Definition Of Expungement?


The definition of expungement under New Jersey statutes is the extraction and isolation of all records on file within any court, jail, correctional facility, law enforcement department or criminal justice agency concerning a person’s detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of a criminal offense within the criminal justice system. What this means is, expungement hides the person’s criminal record, so that if someone ran that person’s background, they won’t be able to see those charges, as if it never happened.

Expungements are as common as people want them to be; as a way to clear someone’s criminal history they are a great tool. I handle a large volume of expungements because, it helps people find jobs or at least help them not be rejected from a job, an apartment lease and so forth.

How Does An Expungement Differ From Having A Record Sealed?

Expungement is the isolation and extraction of the record, meaning it would be as if the incident never occurred, whereas sealing a record is just a court order stating that no one can get their hands on the police reports to see what happened; it does not seal the conviction. If someone was convicted of a crime and the record was sealed, when someone looked up their criminal history, they can see the conviction but not the police reports, whereas if they ran their criminal history after an expungement, there will be no identifiable record; they will still exist, but no one would be able to see them.

In New Jersey, there is a misconception that an expungement destroys the paperwork and police reports, but everything still exists; they are just moved to another location within the criminal justice system, so that no one can see them.

Who is Eligible To File For An Expungement?

Anyone can file for expungement if they had been arrested, charged, convicted, found not guilty or if the charges were dismissed, provided they met certain statutory criteria; they can only expunge one adult felony conviction and up to three disorderly conduct convictions, although they can expunge as many local ordinance violations as they wanted. They must also follow certain statutory criteria to determine their eligibility for expungement; not all felony convictions can be expunged; murder or aggravated sexual assault convictions are ineligible, for example. However, many convictions are eligible, and your attorney can tell you which one are.

How Often Are Expungements Actually Granted?

I have never had an expungement denied as a final ruling of the court, although prosecutors have objected to some; if the attorney knows what they are doing and they understand the expungement statutes, most will be granted. The process is like putting together a puzzle, so if everything is disclosed and the person isn’t statutorily barred, the expungement should be granted. The only issue of chance is if someone tried to do an early pathway expungement, meaning they had a felony conviction and wanted to expunge it more than five years from the date they completed their sentence but before the actual tenure for waiting; that will depend on the judge, who will have to find the expungement to be in the public’s interest. If the person is not statutorily barred from getting the expungement, then the expungement should go through.

Can You Assist In Getting Charges Expunged From Another State?

New Jersey can only expunge New Jersey convictions, arrests and charges, so we can’t expunge an out-of-state conviction, although as part of my service as a very good attorney for my clients, I will contact an attorney from one of the organizations I am affiliated with, to see if they can expunge the out-of-state charges. We will discuss the fact that, in New Jersey, the person only gets  get one felony conviction expunged, so if they have a conviction in Missouri and another in New Jersey, and both were adult felonies; they couldn’t expunge the New Jersey conviction because of the out-of-state conviction. I would speak with the Missouri attorney and ask how we can work this out; perhaps in Missouri they can do a post-conviction relief application to amend the charge to a misdemeanor.

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