The practical benefits of an expungement are numerous. Nearly 80 million Americans are in the FBI’s criminal records database. Even for those who are never incarcerated or who have committed only minor offenses, a criminal record can be a barrier to finding housing or a job. This is increasingly true as more jobs require people to pass background checks.
Many New Jerseyans, however, are faced with the dilemma of being unable to afford the legal fee that would help them obtain the type of job they would need to pay that fee. The New Jersey expungement lawyers at Katherine O’Brien Law, therefore, have created this guide to assist these individuals in researching and locating free expungement opportunities in New Jersey.
Help Us Out! If you are aware of any additional free expungement services, resources, or upcoming events or workshops in New Jersey, please do us a favor and let us know so that we can spread the word to others!
Free Expungement Assistance for Low Income Individuals
It may be possible for those who meet certain low-income requirements to obtain free expungement assistance from their local public defender’s office, legal aid society, or county bar association.
Usually, the only way to find out whether any of these agencies are currently offering free expungement help to county residents is for people to call these agencies and/or organizations and ask.
While it is possible that these agencies might actually file an expungement petition on an individual’s behalf, we have heard that most are usually unable to do so and that, instead, they will simply direct the individual to free expungement assistance resources so that they can represent themselves. The best way to find out, however, is to call and ask.
New Jersey Office of the Public Defender (NJOPD)
The New Jersey Office of the Public Defender will typically represent clients who are charged with either adult or juvenile criminal offenses in New Jersey state courts. In order to be represented by the Public Defender’s Officer, the court must determine that the individual cannot afford to hire a private lawyer. Moreover, while Public Defender’s Office clients do receive and are expected to pay bills for many of the services of the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender, clients will be represented fully – regardless of whether or not they can afford to pay. The Public Defender’s Office, however, will not provide representation to clients on certain types of matters including domestic violence matters in Family Court or Municipal Court matters. Click here for a directory of local New Jersey Office of the Public Defender offices.
Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ)
Legal Services of New Jersey provides free legal assistance to low-income people in New Jersey. LSNJ has six Legal Services programs which provide regional services to client in a 21 counties in New Jersey and operates numerous statewide projects. In addition, their website contains many expungement resources and guides. Click here for a local directory of Legal Services of New Jersey offices.
New Jersey County Bar Associations
Many of the New Jersey County bar Associations have Legal Aid Societies that may offer expungement services and/or assistance to indigent county residents who meet certain eligibility guidelines. A directory of local county bar associations can be found here.
Free NJ Expungement Workshops and Seminars
In addition to reaching out to your local public defender’s office, legal aid society, and/or county bar association to see if they are currently offering free expungement assistance, you should also search the internet to determine if any local expungement events are scheduled to be held in your area.
Often times, legal aid organizations, prosecutor’s offices, and/or state or county bar associations will host free expungement workshops or seminars. Although each of these programs will operate differently, they can offer a wealth of information. These programs will cover New Jersey’s law related to expungement and provide free resources and guides on representing yourself during the expungement process. In addition, depending on the program, those sponsoring the program may actually help individuals by applying for expungements on their behalf.
Past expungement workshops, for example, include seminars that were hosted by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and the Middlesex County Bar Association just to name a few.
To find upcoming free expungement workshops, simple google “free expungement workshop in New Jersey” or “free expungement seminar in New Jersey.” If you are unable to locate any upcoming seminars in your area, set a Google Alert to these phrases so that you are automatically notified via email once a program has been published online.
Other Free Expungement Services and/or Resources in New Jersey
Northeast New Jersey Legal Services (NNJLS)
Northeast New Jersey Legal Services is legal aid society for low income residents that meet eligibility guidelines serving Bergen, Hudson, and Passaic counties. They often host in-house seminars and legal clinics that provide information and resources to individuals so that they can represent themselves in legal matters. Past topics covered include expungements in New Jersey.
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
New Jersey Institute for Social Justice’s mission is to empower urban residents to realize and achieve their full potential. The institute is a research and advocacy group dedicated to the advancement of New Jersey’s residents and urban areas.
NJ Expungement Forms
The New Jersey Judiciary has created NJ expungement forms and guides for use by self-represented litigants.
New Jersey Expungement Cost and Filing Fee Waivers
For those individuals who decide to represent themselves during the expungement process, the current filing fee for a New Jersey expungement is $75.00. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6, however, there is no filing fee for dismissed cases.
For those who are unable to afford the filing fee, you may file an application for a fee waiver. The fee waiver request will be decided based on your financial need and will require the submission of financial records/documents in order for the court to determine whether or not the filing fee should be waived in your case.
Keep in mind, however, that even if you are able to have the $75.00 filing fee waived, you will still be responsible for paying mailing and copying costs, which can add up. You are required to serve various agencies (usually between 5 and 10) with copies of your expungement paperwork both before and after your hearing date. Moreover, these agencies must be served via Certified Mail, Return Receipt Request, which, as of 2017, costs $7.01 per mailing. Thus, Certified Mail costs can add up to $70.00 to $140.00 per expungement. In addition, you will have to pay for photocopying, envelopes, and stamps.
Low Cost Expungement Lawyers – $695 Expungements
As can be seen, although it is not easy to obtain a free expungement in New Jersey, in some cases it is possible. For those who are not able to obtain free expungement representation, low cost private expungement representation is usually the next best option.
At Katherine O’Brien Law, we pride ourselves on being able to offer affordable expungement services for our clients.
At Katherine O’Brien Law, we are passionate about creating opportunities for people who want to clear their criminal record for a fresh start. We also recognize that, due to their criminal records, many of our expungement clients are unable to afford large attorney fees and may require payment plans.
Although we usually require a down payment of at least $300.00, we understand that not all individuals can afford this. Therefore, we work with our clients to find a payment plan that works with their financial abilities.
Don’t let attorney fees get in the way of pursuing your dreams and reaching your potential. Contact the experienced New Jersey expungement lawyers today for a free consultation. You can reach us anytime by calling us at 856-832-2482. Alternatively, you can fill out our Contact Form and indicate when you would like an attorney to call you back.