If a person is arrested in New Jersey, they will get a criminal record. Even if they are not convicted or found guilty of the crime they are arrested for, a criminal record still exists, and will reflect their arrest. In many instances, this record may qualify for expungement. Eligibility for expungement of the arrest record varies depending on the reason for which the person is not convicted (N.J.S. 2C:52-6).
Diversionary program (PTI, Conditional Discharge, etc.)
If charges for an arrest are dismissed because you are sentenced to a diversion program, such as conditional discharge, pretrial intervention, juvenile conference committee, intake service conference, or a difference disposition, then you may not have your arrest expunged until 6 months after entry of the dismissal order. Your charge to a program of this kind will not bar you from expungement after those 6 months. However, many of these programs are only available to first-time offenders.
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For example, if you are arrested for smoking marijuana, then upon the commencement of proceedings against you in criminal court you may apply to enter a Pretrial Intervention Program. If you are accepted to the program, you may file for expungement of the arrest after 6 months. Many of these programs, such as PTI, offer additional dismissal of charges upon completion of the program. While failure to complete the program may result in non-dismissal of the charge, the application for expungement of the arrest may still be filed 6 months after the entry of the order.
Dismissed for other reasons (not guilty, lack of evidence, etc.)
If a person is arrested but not convicted because they are subsequently found not guilty by a court of law, the charges against them are dismissed, they are acquitted, or they are discharged without conviction, then they may request that the arrest and all records pertaining thereto be expunged. There are very few limitations on the expungement of arrest records, so long as there is no conviction or charge, and generally, there is no waiting time or fee to have such records expunged. A case may be dismissed for a number of reasons including found not guilty, lack of evidence, as part of a plea deal, political pressure or the prosecutor decides to drop the case.
For example, if you are arrested for committing a property crime, such as theft or shoplifting, and the court dismisses your case because the prosecution cannot prove that you stole what they claimed you stole, you may have the arrest for the property crime expunged as soon as it is dismissed, or you are found not guilty.
Found not guilty by reason of insanity or lacked mental capacity to commit crime
If a person is arrested for a crime, but charges are dismissed, discharged, or acquitted because a court determines that person was insane or lacked the mental capacity to commit the crime, then he or she will not qualify for expungement of the arrest records.