This article will outline the New Jersey Expungement process. Although it may seem like a lot, the process really only consists of a few steps: determining eligibility, getting your criminal record, filling out the forms, and applying (mailing the forms). These steps are completed over the course of 3-4 months.
DO NOT USE THESE STEPS TO COMPLETE YOUR EXPUNGEMENT. For full and detailed instructions, please see the do-it-yourself expungement kit provided by the New Jersey Courts.
I. Expungement Eligibility
First make sure you are eligible for a New Jersey expugement. We provide a free eligibility test to help you figure this out. If you are not eligible because you must wait a bit longer, you can start preparing some of the documents. That way, when you do become eligible, you will be able to start the process right away.
II. Get Your Criminal Records
When you file for a New Jersey expungement, you must list all of your arrests in the application, including arrests outside the state of New Jersey. You must list these incidents even if the charges were later dropped. Therefore, it is important to get a copy of your criminal record before you begin the expungement process. Most services and lawyers will obtain a copy for you. However, we recommend that you try to get it on your own – it’s not difficult and it saves you money. There are several ways to get your criminal history, and depending on your situation, you might have to use more than one method to get your complete record.
Here are four methods you can use to obtain your criminal record: court disposition, FBI search, Morpho Trak, and private attorney. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
A court disposition is a file that details the final outcome of a criminal case. It contains all the information necessary to file for New Jersey expungement including the outcome of the case, complaint/indictment numbers, statutes charged/convicted, and dates.
Process: To request your record from court, you must fill out an application. You can mail or fax your application or bring it to court. If you decide to mail or fax the application, you may receive your court disposition within a few weeks. Some, but not all, courts will fax your disposition the same day. If you go to court, you can get it within 30 minutes.
- It has all the information you need concerning the arrest you request.
- Easy form and mailing instructions.
- Quick, especially if you physically go to court.
- This is the method of most lawyers use.
- If you have been arrested multiple times, you may need to make a request to each court.
- Procedures may vary by court. Therefore, you should first call the court to find out the process.
NJ State Police
In New Jersey. To get your criminal/juvenile history record (rap sheet) from the New Jersey State Police, you must make arrangements to get fingerprinted by Morpho Trak, a company privately contracted with the State.
Process: You must fill out a couple of forms and schedule an appointment. Once fingerprinted, you will receive your record in a couple weeks. (Click here for more information).
- All New Jersey arrests where you were fingerprinted during processing will be present.
- Relatively short waiting period.
- Form instructions are confusing and lengthy.
- You must go to an office to be fingerprinted.
- Office hours and locations may be inconvenient.
- Arrests where you were not fingerprinted during processing will not be present.
- Arrests outside of New Jersey may not be present.
- May not include juvenile or family records.
Outside of New Jersey. If you live outside of New Jersey, but you have a record in New Jersey, you can obtain your record by calling the Criminal Information Unit of the New Jersey State Police. They will send you instructions on how to get your record. The process involves filling out some forms.
Process: You must fill out an application form and a “fingerprint card”. Unlike obtaining your record from the New Jersey State Police, you do not have to visit any physical office to complete your fingerprint card. However, the FBI recommends that you have your fingerprints taken by a fingerprinting technician. Once the application is received, you should receive your record within 6 to 12 weeks. (learn more).
- All arrests where you were fingerprinted will be present, regardless of the state where the arrest took place.
- You do not have to go to a physical office.
- Form instructions may be confusing.
- Completing your fingerprint card may be difficult.
- Takes as long as 12 weeks to receive your record.
- Arrests where you were not fingerprinted may not be present.
- May not include juvenile or family records.
If a private attorney represented you during the criminal matter, he or she will have a copy of your final disposition. Calling this person and requesting your file is a quickest and cheapest way to get your records relating to that case.
III. NJ Expungement Forms
After you get your records, you need the New Jersey Expungement Form provided by the court system: “How to Expunge Your Criminal and/or Juvenile record.” The forms are located at the end of the PDF file and you can use them to apply for an expugement. Definitely check it out before deciding to complete your new jersey expungement on your own, with a lawyer, or through a DIY service.
- It’s free! All you have to pay for are filing and mailing fees.
- Thoroughly covers procedure and gives a good overview.
- All the forms are provided with some instructions.
- Filing out the forms can be difficult because it’s not intuitive.
- If a mistake is made, you have to start the whole process over again, losing time and money.
- Only a few of the mailing addresses are provided and some are not up to date, requiring you to make phone calls.
- The instructions are meant to cover every situation, not just yours.
- You have to figure out which instructions to apply and which to ignore.
Here is more information on each form in the Expungement Kit provided by the New Jersey court system:
Form A – Peititon for Expungement
The Petition for Expungement is the document that asks the court to expunge your record. On it you must fill out your personal information such as name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number. You also have to fill out details of your entire criminal history of arrests and/or convictions including the date of arrest, municipality, name of offense, statute, indictment/complaint/docket number, date of sentence, and sentence. It’s a good idea to have a copy of your criminal record to help you with this form. It’s quite simple to request your criminal record as outlined above. Lastly you must sign and notarize the form.
Form B – Order for Hearing
The Order of Hearing is the document that sets a hearing date for your expungement. In most situations, you will NOT have to attend the hearing. However, there are a few rare instances where you will have to go to court. On this form, you must again fill out your personal information. You also have to fill out which departments will receive copies of your petition and arrests you would like to expunge.
Form C – Expungement Order
The Expungement Order is the document that orders the expungement of your criminal record. The judge must sign it in order to grant you an expungement. However, your record is not cleared at this point. You must mail copies of the Expungement Order to a list of departments. Like Form B, you must fill out your personal information, which departments will receive copies, and arrests you would like to cleared.
Form D – Cover Letter
This is a cover letter for your first filing and lets the court know that you’d like an expungement. You must fill the address of the court you are filing in and your personal information, and sign it.
Form E – Cover Letter
This is a cover letter for sending copies of the filed petition for expungement , order for hearing, and expungement order to various departments in New Jersey. You must fill the addresses of each department involved with your case and your personal information, and sign it. It is also important that you fill in the certified mail number associated with the mailing of the form.
Form F – Proof of Notice
The Proof of Notice document is used to show proof that you sent copies of your expungement application to the various New Jersey department involved with your case. You must sent this form with your green return receipt cards. This form does not have to be filled out in all situations and is usually only necessary if a court appearance is not required.
Form G – Cover Letter
This cover letter is similar to Form E. It is used for sending copies of your Expungement Order to the various departments. Doing so orders those departments to expunge your criminal record, thereby clearing your record. Like form E, you must fill the addresses of each department and your personal information, and sign it. You must also fill in the certified mail no.
IV. Apply for an Expungement
- Fill out the appropriate forms to petition for an expungement. All of the information you will need will usually be on your court disposition, including the complaint/indictment number, final court charges , arrest date, sentence date, court sentence, and court name.
- You must sign one of these forms in the presence of a notary public.
- Photocopy the forms.
- Mail the forms out to the county court house.
- After 4-6 weeks, you will receive a filed copy of the forms you mailed.
- Photocopy these forms.
- Mail each copy to the appropriate departments via certified mail, return receipt requested. Each form must have a separate cover letter.
- When you receive the return receipts, make a copy for yourself and mail the originals to the county court house. It needs to have a cover letter as well.
- Over 90% of applicants DO NOT have to attend the court hearing. In fact, the court doesn’t want you to attend and will say so in the letter you receive back. Only in rare instances you may have to go to court. If that is the case, bring all photocopies of any documents you have, including the return receipts. You might have to go to court in the following cases:
As part of the expungment process, different departments may be notified of your application including the prosecutor, sheriff’s department, probation department, etc. These parties have the right to object to your expungement. However, if you satisfy all the requirements, it is very rare that someone will object. It is possible that a person might object with no legal or factual basis, but again, it is a rare situation. You do not have to worry about the victim or arresting officer objecting because they are not notified of your petition.
Intent to distribute/sell drugs
If you were convicted of possession with intent to distribute or sell drugs, there is a strong chance that the prosecutor will object. This is a serious crime in New Jersey, which has only recently been made eligible for expungement (N.J.S. 2C:52-2(c)(3)). If the prosecutor objects, an in-court hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the judge will look at your case to decide whether or not to grant you an expungement. The judge will have to determine whether it is in the “public interest” to clear your record. Some factors evaluated include: the nature of the offense and your character and conduct since the offense. In court you will have to argue why you deserve an expungement.
For example, if since your arrest you have gotten a steady job and stayed out of trouble, there is a good chance that the court will grant you an expungement. On the other hand, if you have gotten into trouble, the judge will be more likely to deny your petition. If the judge denies your expungement, you have a right to appeal it. However, the appeals process is lengthy and complex.
Early Pathway Expungement or Public Interest Exception
Although you must typically wait 10 years to expunge a felony offense, you may be able to expunge the offense in 5 years if it is consistent with the “public interest.” Similarly you typically have to wait 5 years to expunge a misdemeanor offense, but can do so in 3 years under the exception (according to a recently passed expungement law). The court will determine if you qualify by looking at your character and conduct since the conviction. It is likely that the prosecutor will object in this circumstance and an in-court hearing will be required. In court you will have to argue why you deserve an expungement. Showing proof of employment, completion or school, or involvement with the community are factors that can help.
- If the court approves your expungement, you will receive a judge-signed court order.
- Photocopy this form.
- Mail each copy to the appropriate departments via certified mail, return receipt requested. Each form must have a separate cover letter. Each department will then go ahead and remove your record.
You’re done! You’re record will not be available to the public. You may also want to tell private background-check companies to remove your records to make sure your record is truly clean.