Eligibility for Expungement in New Jersey

If you are wondering whether your record is eligible for expungement, the answer to this basic question will be dependent upon several factors, including the number of arrests and/or convictions on your record, the type of offense you are trying to expunge, and the amount of time that has passed since you completed your sentence.

Expungement eligibility in New Jersey is a numbers game.  Thus, eligibility will depend upon your entire record.  For this reason, it is very important that you disclose everything that is on your criminal record to your expungement attorney, even arrests that have been dismissed or expunged already.

To view our chart outlining expungement eligibility in New Jersey, click here.

If you have questions about eligibility, contact us today for a free Expungement Analysis Session by calling us at 856-832-2482 or by filing out our Expungement Interview Form.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN ABOUT HOW TO OBTAIN AN ACCURATE COPY OF YOUR CRIMINAL RECORD IN NEW JERSEY.

Expungement of Indictable Offenses (Felony Convictions)

The laws relating to the expungement of felony convictions in New Jersey (also known as indictable offenses) are contained in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2.  In general, in order to be eligible to expunge a felony conviction and up to two disorderly persons convictions (or misdemeanors) each of the following must be true:

  1. You have no prior or subsequent felony convictions (i.e., you only have one felony conviction on your record);
  2. You have not been convicted of a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense more than two times;
  3. It has been at least 10 years since you finished your sentence (including release from incarceration, completion of probation/parole, and payment of your fines) for the most recent offense (whether the felony or misdemeandor(s)); OR you are applying for an early expungement and at least 5 years have passed since you finished your sentence for your most recent offense; and
  4. The felony conviction you are seeking to expunge is not otherwise ineligible for expungement (see below).

Certain Felonies Not Eligible for Expungement in New Jersey

Certain more-serious felony offenses in New Jersey, such as murder, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery and arson are not eligible for expungement – regardless of how old the offenses are.  Thus, under the current state of law in New Jersey these offenses will remain on your record and are not eligible for expungement.

These offenses are as follows:

  • Records of conviction pursuant to repealed statutes for the following offenses: murder, manslaughter, treason, anarchy, kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, arson, perjury, false swearing, robbery, embracery, or a conspiracy or attempt to commit those crimes;
  • Criminal Homicide under N.J.S.A. 2C:11-1 et seq. (except death by auto pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:11-5;
  • Kidnapping pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1;
  • Luring or Enticing under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-6;
  • Human Trafficking under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-8
  • Sexual Assault or Aggravated Sexual Assault pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2;
  • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(a);
  • Criminal Sexual Contact (if the victim is a minor) under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-3(b);
  • Criminal Restraint (if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim) under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-2;
  • False Imprisonment (if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim) under N.J.S.A. 2C:13-13;
  • Robbery pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:15-1;
  • Arson and related offenses under N.J.S.A. 2C:17-1;
  • Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct under N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(a);
  • Endangering the welfare of a child by filming or photographing a child in a sexual act pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(4);
  • Endangering the welfare of a child by causing to permitting a child to engage in a sexual act pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(3);
  • Endangering the welfare of a child by distributing or using a file sharing program to store items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(5)(a);
  • Endangering the welfare of a child by possessing items depicting the sexual exploitation or abuse of a child pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:24-4(b)(5)(b);
  • Perjury under N.J.S.A. 2C:28-1;
  • False Swearing under N.J.S.A. 2C:28-2;
  • Knowingly promoting prostitution of the actor’s child under N.J.S.A.  2C:34-1(b)(4);
  • Terrorism pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:38-2;
  • Producing or possessing chemical weapons under N.J.S.A. 2C:38-3(a);
  • First and second-degree convictions for the sale or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) or possession of CDS with intent to sell; and
  • Convictions for conspiracies or attempts to commit any of the above-mentioned offenses are likewise ineligible for expungement.

Early Felony Expungements in New Jersey

As described above, the normal waiting period to expunge a felony conviction and up to two disorderly persons offenses is 10 years.  This time does not start to run until after the date you finished your sentence (which includes release from incarceration, completion of probation/parole, and payment of your fines) for the most recent offense.

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a)(2), however, you can apply for the early expungement of a felony conviction and up to two disorderly person offenses after five years so long as:

  1. It has been at least five years since you completed your sentence for the most recent offense (whether the felony or misdemeandor(s));
  2. You have not been convicted of a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense since the time of the conviction for your most recent offense; and
  3. The court finds that expungement is in the public interest.

For more information, please read our Guide to Early Expungements in New Jersey. 

Expungement of Felony Convictions for the Sale or Distribution of a Controlled Dangerous Substance or Possession with Intent to Sell

Prior to 2010, convictions for the sale or distribution or possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) with intent to sell – whether in the first, second, third, or fourth degree – were ineligible for expungement.  Thus, like the felonies listed above, they would remain on your record, regardless of how old they were.

The New Jersey legislature amended New Jersey’s expungement law in 2010, however.  So long as these convictions are of the third or fourth degree, they are now eligible for expungement – albeit under a heightened expungement standard known as a “public interest” expungement.  First and second-degree convictions for these offenses, unfortunately, continue to remain ineligible for expungement under the current state of law in New Jersey.

Under the amended law, convictions for the sale or distribution of CDS or possession of CDS with intent to sell are eligible for expungement so long as they involved:

  1. Marijuana and the total quantity involved was 25 grams or less;
  2. Hashish and the total quantity involved was 5 grams or less; and
  3. Any other CDS, provided the conviction was in the 3rd or 4th degree and the court finds that expungement is in the “public interest.”’

Payment of Court Fines as Condition of Sentence for Felony Convictions

In calculating whether a sufficient period of time has passed since you completed your sentence, the court will look at the date you finished paying off your fine.  With respect to a felony conviction, if it has been less than 10 years since you finished paying off your fine, but the 10 year requirement is otherwise satisfied, the court can nonetheless grant your expungement if it determines that you either substantially complied with your payment plan or could not do so due to “compelling circumstances” affecting your ability to satisfy the fine.  See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a)(1).

In determining whether compelling circumstances exist pursuant to this section, the court can consider the amount of fines imposed, the individual’s age at the time of the offense, the individual’s financial situation, and any other circumstances surrounding their ability to pay.

Not Eligible to Have Your Felony Conviction(s) Expunged?

If after reading this article you determine that you are not eligible to have your felony conviction(s) expunged, please note that New Jersey has special expungement laws relating to the expungement of criminal records for individuals who graduated from Drug Court in New Jersey as well as for the expungement of records of young drug offenders in New Jersey.  Thus, if you completed Drug Court in New Jersey or if you were convicted of the possession or use of a controlled dangerous substance when you were twenty-one (21) years old or younger, please refer to the special laws relating to the expungement of these offenses.

Expungement of Disorderly Persons Offenses and Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses (Misdemeanor Convictions)

The laws relating to the expungement of disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey (also known as misdemeanors) are contained within N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3.  In general, a person who has been convicted of 1 to 3 disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses in New Jersey is eligible to expunge up to three of those offenses so long as they have not been convicted of any indictable (felony) offenses in New Jersey or in any other state.  An individual who does have an indictable conviction on their record, on the other hand, may expunge the indictable conviction and up to 2 disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses.

If, however, an individual has been convicted of more than 4 disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses or if they have more than one indictable offense on their record they will not be eligible to expunge any convictions for disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses.  

The standard waiting period to expunge disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses is 5 years from the date you complete your sentence (which includes payment of fines, completion of probation, and/or release from incarceration, whichever is later).  

Early Disorderly Persons Expungement in New Jersey

As described above, the normal waiting period to expunge a disorderly persons offense and/or petty disorderly persons offense is 5 years from completion of sentence.  An individual may, however, be eligible to apply for an “early pathway” expungement of their disorderly persons offense and/or petty disorderly persons offense if the court finds that:

  1. At least 3 years have passed since the date you completed your sentence for the most recent disorderly persons offense and/or petty disorderly persons offense conviction;
  2. You have had no further convictions for an indictable offense, disorderly persons offense, and/or petty disorderly persons offenses; and
  3. The court finds that expungement is in the “public interest.”

See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3(b)(2).

For more information, please read our Guide to Early Expungements in New Jersey. 

Payment of Fines as Condition of Sentence for Disorderly Persons and/or Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses

When calculating whether a sufficient amount of time has passed since you completed your sentence, the court will take into account the date you finished paying off your fine.  With respect to disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses, when it has been less than 5 years since you finished paying off your fine but the 5 year period is otherwise satisfied, the court can nonetheless grant your expungement if it determines that you “substantially complied” with your payment plan or that you could not do so due to “compelling circumstances.”  When determining whether or not you meet the exceptional circumstances standard, the court may look to factors such as your age, financial condition, and other circumstances affecting your ability to pay the fine.  See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-3(b)(1).

Not Eligible to Expunge Your Disorderly Persons Convictions Under this Section?

If you determine that you are not eligible to expunge your disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses after reading this section, please be advised that New Jersey has special expungement laws for those individuals who successfully graduated from Drug Court in New Jersey and for young drug offenders (those under the age of 21 convicted of certain drug offenses).  Therefore, if you graduated from Drug Court or if you were convicted of any drug offenses under the age of 21, please refer to the special laws regarding expungement in those circumstances.  

Expungement of Ordinance Violations

The laws relating to the expungement of ordinance violations in New Jersey are contained in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.

In general, order to be eligible to expunge a conviction for an ordinance violation, each of the following must be true:

1. You have no felony convictions (also known as indictable offenses) in either New Jersey or in any other state;

2. You do not have more than two convictions for any misdemeanors offenses (also known as disorderly person or petty disorderly persons offenses) whether in New Jersey or in any other state; and

3. It has been at least two years since you completed your sentence for the offense, including payment of the fine.

Not Eligible for Expungement of your New Jersey Ordinance Violation?

Please note that New Jersey has special expungement laws relating to the expungement of criminal records for individuals who graduated from Drug Court in New Jersey as well as for the expungement of records of young drug offenders in New Jersey. Thus, if you completed Drug Court in New Jersey or if you were convicted of the possession or use of a controlled dangerous substance when you were twenty-one (21) years old or younger, please refer to the special laws relating to the expungement of these offenses.

Expungement of Juvenile Adjudication Records

The laws relating to the expungement of juvenile records are contained in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-4.1. If you were adjudicated a delinquent as a juvenile, you may be eligible to expunge your record in one of two ways.

First, you may be eligible to expunge your juvenile adjudications as if they were an adult record. This means that for each juvenile offense on your record you would apply the same laws relating to the expungement of adult offenses. So, for example, if you were adjudicated delinquent for an indictable (felony) offense, you would be eligible to expunge that offense so long as you meet the requirements for expunging an adult indictable conviction. The same rules would apply to disorderly persons offenses and municipal ordinance violations. See N.J.S.A.2C:52-4.1(a).

Second, you may be eligible your entire juvenile record if you meet each of the following requirements:

  1. Five years have passed since your discharge from supervision or custody or five years has passed since the entry of a court order not involving custody or supervision;
  2. You have not been convicted of an indictable offense or a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense nor adjudged a delinquent during the five years prior;
  3. You were never adjudged a juvenile delinquent for an offense that is non-expungeable under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b) or N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(c);
  4. You have never had an adult conviction expunged; and
  5. You never had an indictable conviction expunged after Pre-Trial Intervention.

Expungement of Dismissed Charges

The laws relating to the expungement of dismissed charges in New Jersey are contained in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6. People often assume that they do not need to apply for an expungement if there charges were dismissed. This is not true, however, and all too many times the New Jersey expungement lawyers at the Law Office of Katherine O’Brien have seen this lead to disastrous consequences. Arrest information in New Jersey never automatically goes away. Even if your charges were dismissed, the record of your arrest would still show up if someone were to run a criminal background check on you. To make sure that your dismissed arrest does not show up in the background check, you will need to have the record expunged.

If you have been arrested or charged with committing a felony, a disorderly persons offense or a petty disorderly persons offense (also known as a misdemeanor), or a municipal ordinance violation and the charges against you were subsequently dismissed, you were acquitted, or you were discharged without a conviction, you are eligible to have the record expunged. Regarding eligibility, with respect to charges that were dismissed/you were acquitted off/or you were discharged without a finding of guilt, these matters are always eligible for expungement – regardless of how many offenses you have and regardless of how long it has been since they were disposed of. The procedure for this expungement, however, may differ depending on whether your charges were dismissed/acquitted/discharged before or after April 18, 2016.

Expungement of Charges That Were Dismissed On or After April 18, 2016

On April 18, 2016, the law relating to the expungement of dismissals was amended. Under the new law, when your charges are dismissed, you are acquitted, or you are discharged without a finding of guilty, upon application of the defendant, the Superior Court is now required to order the automatic expungement of records relating to the dismissed offense. If the offense was dismissed in Municipal Court, pursuant to the amended law, the Municipal Court is required to provide the defendant, upon their request, with the appropriate documentation to transmit to the Superior Court to accomplish the automatic expungement.

Under these new “automatic expungement” rules, it is important to note that, as a defendant, you must specifically request the automatic expungement from the court at the time the charges were dismissed, your were acquitted, or were otherwise discharged without a finding of guilt. If you fail to do so, your record will not be automatically expunged in this manner.

With an automatic expungement in New Jersey, the fees relating to petitions for expungement do not apply. According to the automatic expungement statute in New Jersey, the Superior Court is responsible for distributing a copy of the Expungement Order on the court and the prosecutor. The prosecutor is then charged with distributing copies of the Expungement Order on all appropriate law enforcement agencies, directing them to expunge the arrest records.

Expungement of Charges That Were Dismissed Before April 18, 2016

The law relating to automatic expungement of dismissed charges in New Jersey does not apply to offenses that were dismissed before April 18, 2016 (when the new automatic expungement law went into effect). It also does not apply if your charges were dismissed on or after April 18, 2016, but you failed to request the automatic expungement from the court at the time your charges were dismissed. In either of those cases, you would have to follow the formal expungement procedure and file a Petition for Expungement with the Superior Court.

Expungement of Conditional Discharge or Pretrial Intervention

The laws relating to the expungement of charges that were dismissed pursuant to a program of supervisory treatment, such as Conditional Discharge under N.J.S.A. 2C:36A-1 or Pretrial Intervention pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-12 are contained within N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6.

In order to be eligible to have the records of these offenses expunged, at least six months must have passed since you completed the diversionary program. Even though the charges against you were dismissed after you completed Pretrial Intervention (which usually consists of one to three years of probation) and/or Conditional Discharge (which typically consists of 6 to 24 months of probation), you will need to apply for an expungement if you do not want this information to be revealed on a criminal background check report. Although people often assume that they do not need to expunge their record when their charges are dismissed, this is incorrect. Arrest information in New Jersey does not automatically go away. In order to ensure that the information is not revealed on a background check, you must have the record of the arrest expunged.

Expungement of Records of Young Drug Offenders

The laws relating to the expungement of records of young drug offenders are contained within N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5. While a New Jersey expungement lawyer will advise you that an individual will normally have to wait anywhere from 5 to 10 years to expunge a felony conviction and 3 to 5 years to expunge a misdemeanor conviction in New Jersey, the legislature recognizes that drug offenses that teens and young adults are convicted of could severely hinder employment and other opportunities for these individuals.

Accordingly, the New Jersey expungement statute contains an exception for the expungement of certain drug offenses for individuals under the age of 21. Under this section, rather than having to wait the waiting periods described above, individuals will be eligible to have their record expunged just one year after they finished their sentence.

In general, order to be eligible to expunge a conviction under this section, each of the following must be true:

  1. You were convicted of one of the following offenses:
    • An offense under chapter 35 (controlled dangerous substances) or chapter 36 (drug paraphernalia) for the possession or use of a controlled dangerous substance;
    • The sale or distribution or possession with intent to sell less than 25 grams of marijuana or less than 5 grams of hashish;
    • The sale of distribution of a hypodermic needle or syringe without a prescription under N.J.S.A. 2A:170-77.5; or
    • The unlawful possession of prescription legend drugs under N.J.S.A. 2A:170-77.8.
  2. At the time of the offense, you were 21 years old or younger;
  3. It has been at least one year since you completed your sentence for the offense (including discharge from probation and payment of fine);
  4. You did not violate any of the conditions of your probation or parole;
  5. You have no prior or subsequent felony convictions;
  6. You have no prior or subsequent convictions for any of the following offenses:
    • An offense under chapter 35 (controlled dangerous substances) or chapter 36 (drug paraphernalia) for the possession or use of a controlled dangerous substance;
    • The sale or distribution or possession with intent to sell less than 25 grams of marijuana or less than 5 grams of hashish;
    • The sale of distribution of a hypodermic needle or syringe without a prescription under N.J.S.A. 2A:170-77.5; or
    • The unlawful possession of prescription legend drugs under N.J.S.A. 2A:170-77.8.
  7. You have never had a felony charge dismissed through Pretrial Intervention (“PTI”).

Not Eligible for Expungement Under this Section?

If you are not eligible for expungement pursuant to this section, you might be eligible to have your felony and/or misdemeanor drug conviction expunged under the expungement statute dealing with felony convictions and/or disorderly persons offenses.

In addition, please note that New Jersey has special expungement laws relating to the expungement of criminal records for individuals who graduated from Drug Court in New Jersey. Thus, if you completed Drug Court in New Jersey please refer to the special laws relating to the expungement of criminal records for Drug Court graduates.

Expungement of Records of Drug Court Graduates

The laws relating to the expungement of records of New Jersey Drug Court graduates is located at N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m). Pursuant to this statute, the court may order the expungement of a person’s entire criminal record upon successful completion of New Jersey Drug Court.  

To be eligible under the Drug Court expungement law, each of the following requirements must be met:

  1. The individual was successfully discharged from New Jersey Drug Court
  2. The individual had not been convicted of an indictable offense or disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense during Drug Court; and
  3. The individual has not been convicted of any offense barred from expungement pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b) or N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(c).

This includes covers convictions for more serious offenses, such as arson, robbery, and sexual assault and convictions for first or second degree sale or distribution of a controlled dangerous substance or possession with the intent to sell.

For more information on New Jersey Drug Court expungements, please read New Jersey Drug Court Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).