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Understanding expungement in the state of New Jersey

Criminal and juvenile arrests and convictions can disrupt people’s lives, but through expungements they may have their records sealed or removed.

As many people throughout the New Jersey Shore area are aware, past arrests and criminal convictions can have lasting consequences. Due to such experiences, people may struggle to get steady work, or face other obstacles to becoming a productive member of society. For some, however, the option of expungement may be available, which might help them to get back on track.

What is expungement?

According to the New Jersey Courts, an expungement is the isolation and removal of all records relating to a person's apprehension, arrest, trial, disposition and detention. This pertains to the criminal or juvenile justice system records that are on file with the courts, detention or correctional facilities, law enforcement, and criminal or juvenile justice agencies. With few exceptions, granted expungements make it so that arrests, criminal convictions, adjudications of delinquency, dispositions and other related proceedings are considered not to have occurred.

When expungements are granted, people receive a number of benefits. For example, those who have had their records expunged are generally able to tell potential employers that they have never been arrested. This is not the case, however, if they are being asked by law enforcement employers. In addition, expungements may remove some of the obstacles people who have been arrested or convicted face when attempting to receive certain employment licenses and certifications.

Eligibility for expungements

Expungement eligibility depends on a number of factors. These factors include the specific incidents that people are looking to expunge, their prior arrests and convictions, and the sentences they received for a conviction. Additionally, when their arrests or convictions occurred may also be taken into consideration when determining if people are eligible to have their criminal records expunged.

It is important for people to understand that there are numerous offenses, which are cannot be expunged. The New Jersey Office of the Attorney General points out that these offenses include the following:

• Criminal homicide

• Arson, and related offenses

• Enticing or luring

• Human trafficking

• Criminal restraint and false imprisonment

• Robbery

Additionally, many sexual offenses, such as aggravated sexual assault and criminal sexual contact are not eligible for expungement. People also cannot have their records for child-related offenses, including endangering the welfare of a child, child prostitution, selling or producing child pornography, and kidnapping, expunged.

Looking to the future

Following an arrest or conviction in New Jersey, and elsewhere, people's lives are often forever changed. They may lose employment opportunities, face personal struggles and deal with other disruptions to their lives. In order to help put their pasts behind them, those who have experienced such situations may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A legal representative may explain their rights and options, help them determine if they are eligible for an expungement and guide them through the legal process.