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:
- You have no prior or subsequent felony convictions (i.e., you only have one felony conviction on your record);
- You have not been convicted of a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense more than two times;
- 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
- 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- Records of conviction pursuant to repealed statutes for the following offenses: murder, manslaughter, treason, anarchy, kidnapping, rape, forcible sodomy, arson, perjury, false swearing, robbery,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:
- It has been at least five years since you completed your sentence for the most recent offense (whether the felony or misdemeandor(s));
- 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
- 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:
- Marijuana and the total quantity involved was 25 grams or less;
- Hashish and the total quantity involved was 5 grams or less; and
- 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.