If you have ever been arrested or detained—regardless of whether you were later convicted—you now have a criminal record. This event remains in your permanent history and follows you wherever you go. There are many deficits of having a criminal record, which can negatively impact other areas of your life. It can affect your ability to get a job, rent or buy a home or enroll in school.
What you may not know, however, is that you can take proactive steps to clear your criminal record. This process is known as “expungement.” If you have your criminal record expunged, it is as though the offense never occurred. It is removed from your police record, and it won’t show up in a background check. What’s more, after the offense is cleared, you are legally permitted to state that it never happened. In job applications, for instance, this can be a real benefit, because many applications explicitly ask whether you have a criminal record. Following expungement, your legal answer to that question is “no.”
If the charges against you were dropped or if you were found not guilty, then you can apply for expungement. If you were convicted of a crime, many cases are eligible for expungement, including indictable offenses, disorderly conduct, minor drug offenses and municipal ordinance violations. Most motor vehicle offenses and more serious crimes do not qualify for expungement.
Shorter waiting periods
In New Jersey, the law surrounding expungement has recently changed, allowing you to apply for expungement sooner than before. You can file for expungement five years after completing your sentence for a criminal conviction (previously it was 10) and three years after completing your sentence for disorderly conduct (instead of five).