Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in New Jersey

In New Jersey, your criminal record may be expunged—that is, erased or sealed—under the circumstances described below. If your record is expunged, it is hidden from public view. For legal purposes, it is as though the events described within the expunged record never occurred. In most cases, you may say that you were not arrested or convicted of a crime. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-27 (2018).)

Expungement in New Jersey if You Were Not Convicted of a Crime

If you were arrested or detained, but not convicted of a crime, you may petition to have the related criminal record expunged if either of the following are true:

  • the proceedings against you were dismissed, or
  • you were acquitted or otherwise discharged without a finding of guilt.

If the dismissal was the result of completing a supervisory treatment program, you must wait six months to file for expungement.

If the dismissal, discharge, or acquittal was due to a finding of insanity or lack of mental capacity, the record cannot be expunged. And if the dismissal, discharge, or acquittal was a result of a plea bargain that involved a conviction for another charge, the arrest or detention record is not eligible for expungement until the conviction record itself has been expunged.

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-6 (2018).)

Expungement in New Jersey if You Were Convicted of a Crime

New Jersey law permits the expungement of many criminal convictions after successfully completing your sentence and waiting for a required period of time.

Indictable offenses. The ordinary waiting period is six years. However, you may file your petition after five years and, if the court is satisfied that allowing expungement is in the public interest, it may approve your request. Furthermore, you may apply for expungement if fewer than six years have passed from the date you finished paying any fine associated with your case, and:

  • you have fulfilled all other conditions of your sentence
  • you have otherwise satisfied the required six-year waiting period, and
  • you can show the court that you substantially complied with the terms of any court-ordered payment plan or were unable to do so because of “compelling circumstances.”

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-2 (2018).)

Disorderly person offenses. The waiting period is ordinarily five years. However, you may petition for an expungement after three years, and if the court is satisfied that the expungement would be in the public interest, it can approve your application. And you may apply for expungement if fewer than five years has elapsed from the date you finished paying any fine associated with your case, and:

  • you have completed all other parts of your sentence
  • you have otherwise satisfied the required five-year waiting period, and
  • you can show the court that you substantially complied with the terms of any court-ordered payment plan or were unable to do so because of “compelling circumstances.”

(N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-3 (2018).)

Municipal ordinance violations. The waiting period is two years. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-4 (2018).)

Minor drug offenses. If you were a first-time offender under the age of 21, you may petition for expungement after waiting one year. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-5 (2018).)

Exceptions. Most motor vehicle offenses cannot be expunged. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:52-28 (2018).) In addition, Section 2C:52-2 of the New Jersey Statutes contains a long list of indictable offenses that are not eligible for expungement, including crimes of public officials, serious drug crimes, murder, kidnapping, sex crimes, false imprisonment, robbery, arson, child endangerment, and others. Your petition for expungement may also be denied if you have more than the allowable number of convictions.

Carefully read the New Jersey laws or consult a criminal law attorney for help determining whether your conviction can be expunged.

How to File for Expungement in New Jersey

The New Jersey Courts website offers a kit called How to Expunge Your Criminal and/or Juvenile Record. It contains important information about the filing process and includes the forms you’ll need.

Getting Legal Help

Cleaning up a criminal record can be complicated, and the law can change at any time. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in New Jersey—or for advice about your personal situation—you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can help you understand the law and assist with any papers you might need to file.

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