What Happens at an Expungement Hearing in New Jersey?
Having a criminal record attached to your name can be a major obstacle to getting a job, which can harm your career and lead to financial hardships. However, you can seal your record by applying for something called an expungement. Once your record has been sealed, in most situations you can legally tell prospective employers that you have never been arrested or convicted of a crime. In this blog entry, Cherry Hill expungement attorney Joseph Lombardo explains what to expect at a typical New Jersey expungement hearing.
Which Criminal Records Can Be Sealed in New Jersey?
Before we examine what takes place at an expungement hearing, it’s important to make sure that your offense is actually eligible.
Generally speaking, disorderly persons offenses (DP offenses) and petty DP offenses may be expunged, provided that:
- At least five years have passed since you paid your fines, completed your sentence, completed probation, or were convicted — whichever date is latest.
- There are no other charges pending against you.
- You have not been convicted of an indictable crime, or felony in other jurisdictions.
- You have no more than three DP offenses on your record, including the current offense. New Jersey law permits a maximum of three DP offense expungements.
Many indictable crimes can also be expunged, although the waiting period doubles from five to ten years. However, there are certain indictable crimes which cannot be expunged, including but not limited to:
If you think you meet the general eligibility requirements, it’s time to take a closer look at which forms you need to file, and what takes place during the hearing.
How to Apply: Which Forms Do You Need to File?
To initiate the process, you’ll need to prepare three documents, ideally with the help of an experienced New Jersey record expungement lawyer.
The first document, Form A, is the Petition for Expungement. It’s very important to file this petition in the county where you were arrested. If you were a juvenile at the time of the incident, you must file the petition in the county where you were taken into custody. (If you were arrested or brought into custody in more than one county, a county Criminal Case Management Office can help you evaluate which steps you need to take next.)
Your petition must be accompanied by a signed Verification sheet. You must sign the Verification page in the physical presence of a notary public, because he or she will need to stamp the document with an official seal.
In addition to the petition, you’ll also need to fill out Form B, or the Order for Hearing. This is the document the judge will refer to when scheduling your hearing, generally about one to two months after the court receives your petition.
Finally, you need to prepare Form C, the Expungement Order itself. If the judge decides to grant the expungement, he or she will sign this form to verify that your records can be sealed.
There is a filing fee of $75 for the paperwork to be processed, though you may be able to apply for a waiver if you’re under financial hardship.
Once your forms have all been filed, the court will send copies back to you for your records. At this time you will also receive a docket number, which is simply a code the courts use to identify each case. Form B, the Order for Hearing, will tell you when and where you hearing has been scheduled to take place.
What to Expect at Your Expungement Hearing
Depending on the county you live in, you may or may not be required to physically appear at the hearing itself. If you are required to appear in person, be sure to:
- Dress appropriately.
- Arrive at least 15 minutes early.
- Come prepared with copies of all your paperwork.
- Inform the court clerk you have arrived.
If you are not required to appear, you will have to mail your paperwork to the appropriate Criminal Case Management Office at least seven days before the hearing takes place. Lombardo Law can help you prepare and review your documentation, including additional forms such as Cover Letters and Proof of Notice.
Be advised that police officers who wish to challenge your request may appear at your hearing and explain their objections to the judge, who will question you in response to the officer’s complaints before making a decision.
However, many hearings tend to go smoothly for petitioners. As stated by the judiciary itself, “If there is no opposition, the judge will, in most cases, grant your expungement.” In cases where no law enforcement officers object to the request, the court may even decide to grant the expungement without conducting a hearing, at which point you would simply receive a signed Expungement Order in the mail.
On a final note, it is always worthwhile to call the court the day before your hearing to confirm the time and date. Court schedules tend to be extremely crowded, and hearing dates may change unexpectedly.
If you’re tired of losing opportunities because of an old conviction, sealing your record may be the perfect solution. To start exploring your legal options in a free and completely confidential case evaluation, call Lombardo Law at (609) 445-4300 today.