New Expungement Laws in New Jersey

February 4, 2016

New Expungement Laws in New Jersey Effective on April 18, 2016, Reduce Waiting Time and More

On January 19, 2016, Governor Chris Christie signed into law Bill A-206, which contains significant amendments to law governing expungements in New Jersey.  These changes will take effect starting April 18, 2016.  The brief overview below highlights some of the more important changes made to New Jersey expungement law, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2, et. seq.
It is important to be mindful that the Internet is full of websites and blogs that unfortunately contain conflicting and inaccurate information about the new expungement law in New Jersey.  Do not be mislead by those by other attorneys and/or authors of the articles containing inaccurate information. The attorneys at the Law Office of Randolph H. Wolf have an accurate understanding of the new law, the full text of which can be read here.
1. Simultaneous Expungment of a Criminal Conviction and Up to Two Disorderly Persons Convictions.  Under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a), an individual can now expunge one felony conviction and up to two disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses.  Under the old law, anyone convicted of a felony could expunge their felony conviction, however, any disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses would remain on their record.  In essence, the felony conviction barred the expungement of any disorderly persons or petty disorderly person offenses.  With the new law, however, so long as it has been at least ten years from the date of the “most recent” conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration for the crime and any disorderly persons offenses, which is later, you may petition the court to expunge the felony conviction, as well as up to two disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions.  In addition, you may apply for an “early pathway” expungement five years after the “most recent” conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration for the crime and any disorderly persons offenses, which is later, with a “public interest” finding.
2. Early Pathway Expungement for Disorderly Persons Convictions.  With respect to the expungement of disorderly persons offenses, under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3, if the individual has not been convicted of a prior or subsequent felony, they may apply for an expungement of up to 3 disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses 5 years after completion of their sentence.  If an individual has been convicted of a prior or subsequent felony, however, they must apply for the expungement of any disorderly persons offenses pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 above, which means they cannot have more than two disorderly persons offenses and at least 5 years (for an early pathway expungement) or 10 years (for a standard expungement) have passed since completion of the sentence for the most recent conviction.  For those individuals who have not been convicted of a prior or subsequent felony, however, the new law also allows for “early pathway”expungement of disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons convictions, so long as the petitioner demonstrates that expungement is in the “public interest” and at least 3 years have passed the date of the “most recent” conviction, payment of fine, completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, which is later.
3. Payment of Fines for Disorderly Persons Convictions.  Under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3(b)(1), if it has been less than 5 years since satisfaction of your fine for the disorderly persons offens(es) you are seeking to expunge pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3 above, but the 5 year time requirement for completion of your sentence is otherwise satisfied, the court may nonetheless grant your expungement if you can establish either: (1) that you substantially complied with your fines; or (2) you could not do so due to “compelling circumstances.”
4. Dismissed Cases.   For arrests that resulted in dismissal, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6, the court is now required at the time of acquittal, dismissal, or discharge, upon the application of the individual, to order the automatic expungement of all records relating to the offense.  Automatic expungement will not apply to those charges that were disposed of before the law goes into effect, however.  Thus, a petition for expungement will need to be filed with the court for charges that were dismissed prior to April 18, 2016.  Moreover, any person that did not apply an automatic expungement pursuant to this section at the time of the dismissal, acquittal, or discharge must subsequently file a petition for expungement with the court.
5. Drug Court Expungements.  The new law also amends New Jersey’s law governing Drug Court, which is codified at N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14.  Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m), those individuals that successfully complete a special term of probation are eligible for expungement of all records relating to all prior arrests, detentions, convictions, and proceedings for any Title 2C offense.  In order to be eligible under this provision, the person must have satisfactorily completed a substance abuse program and must not have been convicted or any crimes or disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses during their term of special probation. In Addition, the individual, would not be eligible for expungement if he or she was ever convicted for an offense that is barred from expungement pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b), which bars the expungement of many violent crimes.  Even those individuals who were successfully discharged from a term of special probation prior to the law’s effective date may apply for expungement relief under this section.
If you have any questions about this new law or its impact on your eligibility for expungement, contact the experienced expungement attorneys at the Law Office of Randolph H. Wolf today at (732) 741-4448 for a free consultation.

 

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