Clearing Your Name 101

Having a criminal record can seriously complicate your life.  It doesn’t matter if the conviction was for something small or a very long time ago.  The government can restrict certain rights (such as the right to keep and bear arms) and employers often pass over applicants with a criminal record.  Fortunately, in New Jersey, there’s something you can do about it.

Am I Eligible for an Expungement?

New Jersey law allows an individual to expunge his or her criminal record, so long as the individual meets certain requirements.  If you have been convicted of a crime (without any prior or subsequent convictions), and have not been convicted of more than two disorderly persons offenses, you are eligible for an expungement after ten years have passed from the date the sentence was completed.  If you were jailed for the crime, this means that you must wait ten years from the date you were released; if the punishment was a fine, then the time period expires ten years after you paid the fine.

If you have been convicted of more than two disorderly persons offenses, you are not completely prohibited from getting an expungement, but it does complicate things.  According to New Jersey law, the “nature of those . . . convictions and the circumstances surrounding them shall be considered by the court and may be a basis for denial of relief if they . . . constitute a continuation of the type of unlawful activity embodied in the criminal conviction for which expungement is sought.”  N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2.  Thus, a court appearance will be necessary if you have several offenses on your record.

What Does An Expungement Do?

New Jersey’s definition of “expungement” is: “The extraction and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency concerning a person’s detection, apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal justice system.”  Criminal complaints, warrants, arrests, commitments, fingerprints, photos, index cards, rap sheets, and docketing records are included within the definition.

This means that the documentation of your arrest and convictions will be taken out of your file and physically separated.  However, law enforcement may still be able to access your expunged record in order to determine whether you are eligible for supervisory treatment or a diversion program, in order to determine if you had a prior expungement, in setting bail and determining correctional facilities, and in some other limited instances.

An expungement does not automatically clear the records of privately operated background check companies.  Several credit check companies and databases include this information, as well.  In order to clear your record as completely as possible, it is necessary to contact these companies and provide the necessary documentation to remove your name from the databases.  Thompson Law Offices includes this secondary step in all of its expungement cases for no extra charge.

Can I Own a Firearm After an Expungement?

Yes.  The Application for Firearms Purchaser Identification Card, required to purchase a firearm, specifically excludes expunged crimes from the questionnaire.  It does not, however, exclude domestic violence crimes involving “striking, kicking [or] shoving,” purposely or recklessly causing (or attempting) bodily injury, or negligently causing bodily injury with a deadly weapon.  Thus, if you have been convicted of a domestic abuse crime that involved bodily injury, or attempted bodily injury, you must still answer “yes” to the question on the firearms application.

Can I Expunge Charges That Were Dismissed?

Absolutely.  If the charge was dismissed (or you were acquitted), then you are eligible to have those charges expunged.  While there is a filing fee to file a petition to expunge convictions, there is no filing fee for petitions to expunge dismissed charges or acquittals.  The expungement will have the same effect as that of a conviction, and will isolate all paperwork related to your charges.

If you have a criminal record and wish to discuss your options, call Thompson Law Offices, LLC to set up your FREE CONSULTATION at (888) 866-6947 or email the office at

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