According to a recent report, one in four Americans has a criminal record. Many of these people are hard-working adults who simply made a poor judgment call sometime in their life. For these people, this record can haunt them every day.
In most cases, criminal records are public records, meaning friends, family, and potential employers can all look up your previous arrests and convictions. This can have serious negative consequences on your personal and professional life.
Rebuilding your life with a criminal record can be hard. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you expunge your record and put your past behind you. As an active member of the Haddonfield community, attorney Matthew V. Portella believes that good people deserve a second chance. If you need help expunging a past offense, contact the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella at (856) 310-9800.
What Does It Mean to Expunge Your Record?
New Jersey defines expungement as “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.”
To put it simply, when the court grants an expungement, all records relating to your arrest and conviction are sealed from the public view. This does not mean that your record disappears—it is still in the system.
It does mean that most people and agencies cannot look up or view your expunged records. After your record is expunged, your arrest or conviction will not appear in a criminal background check. Further, you are not legally required to disclose this information to anyone other than select law enforcement and judicial representatives.
A Closer Look at New Jersey’s Laws Regarding Expungement
The New Jersey legislature has created specific laws regarding expunging criminal records. Your eligibility to expunge a prior offense will depend on several factors including the type of crime you are trying to expunge, your criminal record, and the amount of time that has passed since your arrest or conviction. Here are a few specifics to keep in mind:
- There is a waiting period from the time of your conviction to when you can ask for an expungement. The time frame is different for different types of convictions but can range anywhere from six months to six years. The only exception is if your case was dismissed. In this case, there is no waiting period.
- You cannot request expungement if you have more than one conviction. There are very few exceptions to this rule. An experienced attorney can help you determine whether you qualify for an expungement.
- A New Jersey court can only expunge arrests or convictions that happened in New Jersey. If you have a record in another state you will need to follow that state’s rules regarding your record.
- You cannot expunge certain crimes. These include murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping, and other more serious charges.
- Motor vehicle offenses are not eligible for expungement.
- You cannot apply for an expungement if charges are pending against you. If within five years of your expungement, the court is notified that there were pending charges against you at the time of your request, the court has the authority to revoke your expungement.
Does an Expungement Keep Everyone From Seeing My Record?
There are many reasons why you may want to expunge your record. A criminal record can prevent you from getting a job, receiving financial aid, or even getting a date with anyone who knows how to use a search engine. Expunging your record can hide your arrest or conviction, but does it keep everyone from seeing it?
The short answer is no. While an expungement keeps most people from seeing your record, it does not just go away. Your criminal record may be visible in the following situations:
- You are applying for a job with a law enforcement agency, a judicial branch, or a corrections facility
- You are being sentenced for another crime
- You are applying for naturalization
- You are asking to have a separate conviction expunged.
- When the court is determining whether you should be eligible for a supervisory treatment or diversion program
It’s Not Magic
An expungement is not a magic eraser. While you will be able to get the information off your criminal record, it may still exist in other forms. An expungement does not remove your information from other sources. Evidence of your conviction may still exist on social media, in local newspapers, or on private online criminal record search programs. A recent federal court decision found that an expungement does not “privatize” a criminal record. The decision read in part:
“While [an expungement] removes a particular arrest and/or conviction from an individual criminal record, the underlying object of expungement remains public. Court records and police blotters permanently document the expunged incident, and those officials integrally involved retain the knowledge of the event. An expunged arrest and/or conviction is never truly removed from the public record and thus is not entitled to privacy protection.”
Essentially, beyond removing the information off of your criminal record report, the court does not have any obligation to make sure that no one knows about your arrest or conviction. That being said, an expungement can make it much more difficult for someone to find this information.
How an Experienced Haddonfield Expungement Attorney Can Help
Requesting an expungement is more than filling out a few forms. You must request an expungement from every agency that has a record of your conviction or arrest and appear in front of a judge. You must follow specific rules and regulations to have your request approved. Expunging your criminal record can make a dramatic improvement in your life, but it is not something you want to do alone.
Contact the Law Office of Matthew V. Portella at (856) 310-9800 or use our confidential contact page to request a consultation, if you have a criminal record you’d like to expunge in Haddonfield, or anywhere in South Jersey, including Camden or Camden County.
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“I want to thank Mr. Portella for taking my case. What an amazing law office and attorney. He is very professional and got all of my charges dismissed. If I ever need an attorney again, Mr. Portella will be the one I call. Thank you again! -A.M.”>