What Is The Expungement Process For A Criminal Charge?
The process starts with filing a verified petition, which means papers filed with the court, with the person’s identifying information, details of the charges and the request for expungement it expunged. It’s verified because the petitioner signs off to verify that they had no prior felony expungements and no pending criminal cases. After filing, a hearing will happen approximately 45 days later, at which the judge will then sign an order to hear the case on a certain date and the attorney will send everything to all interested agencies, meaning law enforcement or criminal justice agency involved with the arrest, such as the local municipal court, police departments, the jail, the county prosecutor, the probation department, if applicable, and the New Jersey Attorney General.
Provided no one objects at the hearing, the judge will sign the order at the hearing and send it to the attorney, who will then send it back out to all of those agencies again, so they can correct their records and we will eventually get a letter from the New Jersey State Police saying the Identification Bureau had corrected its records and, at that point, the expungement is done. If there are no problems or objections, the process takes about six to nine months from start to finish and most of it is just paperwork.
Where is the Motion Filed?
I strongly recommend having an attorney do this, because they would need to make sure they had dotted all their I’s, crossed all their T’s and put all the information in the petition that is required by statute. The prosecutor handles expungements on behalf of the state of New Jersey, and I see a lot of people in court whose petition has been objected to by the prosecutor because they had forgotten to put in one of their other arrests, charges or convictions in there. It may be a very small charge, but it’s necessary to put in all of your criminal history, including out-of-state charges into the record.
The person doesn’t need to provide fingerprints; those are only needed to get their criminal history, so as to make sure they disclosed everything. The person can get them done as a side note, to make sure they have everything, by going to the New Jersey State Police website, going into the fingerprint section and setting up an appointment, at which time their fingerprints will be digitally scanned and the state police will send them their criminal history within about four weeks.
Is Expungement An Affordable Process?
The current cost to file an expungement is $75, but there are other associated costs as well, including the costs of sending the order to all of those agencies twice each via certified mail, return receipt requested, which is about $7.80 each. There are also photocopying costs and so forth.
That’s not to say it isn’t affordable; while I don’t really disclose what I charge, but if it was a regular “plain-vanilla statute” meaning the person had waited for the full statutory waiting period and there were no other charges that may bar the expungement, it would cost a $2000 fee plus the costs of about $300. The petition is four pages long, the order for hearing and the actual order are two pages long each, so there isn’t a ton of photocopying and paper.
If the person did an early pathway expungement, the fee is more like $5,000 to put it together and then there would be an additional fee if I have to argue in court. The petition that is normally four pages long is still four pages long, but with about 100 pages of attachments added, including an affidavit by the client showing why it was in the public interest to have the charges expunged, about 20 character letters showing the person as an upstanding citizen of good character, their tax returns for the last five years and property tax receipts, to show that he was working and paying his taxes and five newspaper articles showing the person had done volunteer time at soup kitchens and a certificate from the Purple Heart showing that he donated one of his cars; things like that, making the petition much more voluminous.
Regarding whether this is affordable, let’s just say hypothetically that an attorney charges $2,000 to do it and weighs that against the person’s ability to get a job that makes $10,000 more per year; in my opinion it’s worth every penny. I can say with 100% confidence and belief that it is absolutely worth it.
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