NEW CHANGES TO NEW JERSEY EXPUNGEMENTS OF INDICTABLE OFFENSES (CRIMES/FELONIES)

September 1, 2018

The New Jersey Legislature in its major overhaul of the NJ Expungement Law effective October 1, 2018 has made  major changes to this statue which deals with indictable convictions (felonies) They can be summarized as follows:

The time period necessary to obtain an expungement has been reduced from ten (10) years to six(6)  years from the most recent conviction, payment of fine, completion probation or parole, or release from jail whichever is later. A  Fine is defined as any fine, restitution, and other court order financial assessment imposed by the court.

If the fine has been paid, but, less than 6 years have expired from the date of satisfaction, and the time requirement is otherwise satisfied, and the court finds that the petitioner complied with the payment plan or could not due so to compelling circumstances,  then the Court can grant the expungement even though the 6 years have not run. Compelling circumstances are determined by considering the amount of the fine or fines imposed, the person’s age at the time of conviction, the person’s financial condition, and other relevant information regarding the person’s ability to pay.  

The Petitioner is still allowed to apply for an “early pathways” expungement at the 5 year mark as long as the other conditions are have been met. One such condition is that the petitioner has not been other wise convicted of crime or disorderly persons offense since the time of the most recent conviction.

A Petitioner may now apply for the expungement of one indictable offense and up to three (3) disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offenses. This is an increase from the old statute which only allowed for one indictable and up to two (2) disorderly person or petty disorderly persons offenses. If the person has more then three (3) disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions in addition to the one indictable, then nothing is eligible for expungement.   

The new legislation also to some extent revives the old “spree” doctrine in New Jersey. This doctrine was good law in New Jersey for many years.   It was set forth in In re Fontana, 146 NJ Super. 264 (App. Div. 1976) but 30 years later was  barred in a later case, State v. Ross, 400 NJ Super. 117 (App. Div. 2008). The disagreement in the Appellate Division was finally settled by the the New Jersey Supreme Court in 2015.  The Court agreed with the decision is Ross and in, In re Expungement Application of J.S., 223 NJ 54 (2015) killed the doctrine completely. The Legislature has now partially restored the doctrine and permits expungement of indictable offenses as follows:

  1.   The person has been convicted of multiple crimes or a combination of one or more crimes and one or more disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey all of which are listed in a single judgment of conviction and does not otherwise have any prior or subsequent conviction for another crime or offense in addition to those convictions included in the expungement application; or
  2. The person has been convicted of multiple crimes or a combination of one or more crimes and/or disorderly persons offenses or multiple petty disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey (or a combination of both) which were interdependent or closely related in circumstances and which were committed as part of a sequence of events that took place within a short period of time, regardless of the date of conviction or sentencing for each offense, and the person does not otherwise have any prior or subsequent conviction for another crime or offense in addition to those included in the expungement application.  

The new law also makes minor changes to the expungement of convictions for sale or distribution of CDS or possession therefor with intent to sell as follows:

(1) Expungement is permitted with respect to Marijuana, where total sold, distributed, or possessed with intent to sell was less than once ounce (This raises the amount allowed to 28 grams up from 25 grams)

(2) Hashish, where total sold, distributed, or possessed with intent to sell was 5 grams or less. (This remains the same)

The law remains the same on public interest expungements for other CDS violations.  It still permits a conviction for Possession of CDS with Intent/ Sell/ Distribute in the 3rd or 4th degree where the court finds that expungement is consistent with the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the petitioner’s character and conduct since conviction.

The new law creates greater opportunity for expungements.  It also is open to interpretation in many areas and will provide fertile ground to attempt to pursue expungements that previously would have been denied.  The Expungement Attorneys at the Law Office of Randolph H. Wolf will aggressively pursue these new opportunities and we encourage you to call our office for a free consultation to see how the new law may benefit you.   

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