As a New Jersey criminal defense attorney, many of my clients want to know how long they have to wait before they can file for an expungement. The New Jersey expungement law states in detail who is eligible for an expungement. You or your lawyer should review the current applicable provisions of N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 through N.J.S.A. 2C:52-32 to determine if you are eligible. Please see our New Jersey Expungement page for more information.
But generally speaking, if you were convicted of an indictable offense (anything called a “crime” in New Jersey) then you will qualify if it is your first conviction and you have no subsequent convictions. You can also qualify for expungement of disorder persons offenses using similar criteria.
The general rule with indictable offenses, or “crimes”, is that you need to wait 10 years after the end of the sentence (i.e. after probation or parole has ended, and after all fines are paid) before you can qualify to expunge a criminal conviction. The law did change to allow for expungement earlier than 10 years after the sentence. But as pointed out by the Appellate Division in the recent case of In Re Lobasso, 423 N.J. Super. 475 (App. Div. 2012), for you to succeed with an early expungement petition, the court must find “in its discretion that expungement is in the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense, and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction.” Construing the new law, the court concluded that expungement before ten years is reserved for compelling, but not necessarily rare or unusual cases. The court held that a trial court should weigh case-specific facts regarding the nature of the offense, the offender’s character and conduct, and other relevant factors. Related to an “offender’s character and conduct,” a trial court may consider facts of an arrest that did not result in conviction, if supported by cognizable evidence. Regarding the “nature of the offense,” a trial court may consider the grade of the offense, and related circumstances. Additionally, a trial court may consider: whether the petitioner engaged in activities post-conviction to limit the risk of re-offending; the petitioner’s character and conduct before conviction; and the conviction record’s impact on the petitioner’s “reentry” efforts.
Filing a Petition for Expungement is a complicated process and is best done by an attorney. It is especially important to retain an attorney is you would like to file the petition before the 10 years has elapsed. If you would like to discuss this with an attorney, please call us today for a 100% free consultation.