Eligibility for Expungement in New Jersey

Please note: These pages have been updated as of the new expungement law, L. 2019, c.269 (better known as the “Clean Slate Act”), which was signed by Governor Murphy on December 18, 2019, originally to become effective, on June 15, 2020. Due to COVID-19, however, the June 15, 2020, effective date was pushed back to February 15, 2021, pursuant to Executive Order 178.

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 absolutely everything that is on your criminal record to your expungement attorney so that they can accurately determine eligibility.

***Moreover, perhaps the most important thing to understand about the New Jersey expungement process is this: you are under an obligation to disclose everything on your record. This includes, juvenile offenses, dismissed offenses, local ordinance offenses, misdemeanor/disorderly persons offenses, out-of-state criminal offenses, out-of-state traffic offenses that are criminal in nature, and previously expunged offenses.  During the expungement process, the county prosecutor and the New Jersey State Police will conduct an extensive background check on you.  They will see everything on your record. If they see that you have failed to disclose anything, they will object to your expungement on the basis that you failed to disclose your entire record. Not only could this impact your eligibility for expungement, but it also means that you will have to refile an amended petition for expungement and essentially start the process all over again. 

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

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

Four Types of Expungements

As of the most recent amendments to New Jersey’s expungement law, which take effect on February 15, 2021, there are now four different sets of statutes under which a person may be eligible for expungement in New Jersey. Thus, you should make sure to analyze your eligibility under all four of these avenues for expungement. They include:

  1. Regular Expungements
  2. Marijuana Expungements
  3. Drug Court Expungements
  4. Clean Slate Act Expungements

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

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 statute N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 of the regular expungement statutes.

In general (although they are exceptions with respect to payment of fines, as described below), you can expunge one indictable (felony) conviction and up to three disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses (misdemeanors) as long as it has been at least 5 years since you finished your sentence (which includes release from incarceration, completion of probation/parole, and payment of your fines) for the most recent offense (whether the indictable or disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses).

Alternatively, you can apply for an early expungement so long it has been at least 4 years since you finished your sentence (which includes release from incarceration, completion of probation/parole, and payment of your fines) for the most recent offense (whether the indictable or disorderly or petty disorderly persons offenses).

  • If You Have More Than One Indictable Offense. If you have more than one indictable (felony) offense, then you can expunge only the most recent indictable conviction.  The prior indictable conviction (whether within New Jersey or out of state) would remain on your record.  If, however, you had previously expunged the older indictable conviction, then unfortunately you would not be eligible to expunge the most recent indictable conviction under this section (you may, however, be eligible for expungement under the Clean Slate or Drug Court expungement statutes).
    • So, for example, if you were convicted of theft in 2005 and aggravated assault in 2013, you would be able to expunge the 2013 aggravated assault conviction, but the theft conviction would remain on your record. 
    • If, however, you were convicted of theft in 2005 and subsequently had that offense expunged but were later convicted of aggravated assault in 2013, then you would not be eligible to expunge the 2013 aggravated assault conviction due to the prior expungement.
  • If You Also Have Disorderly Persons Offenses (Misdemeanors) or Petty Disorderly Persons Offenses On Your Record. You can expunge one indictable conviction and up to three disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions.  If you have more than three disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons convictions, then you would not be eligible to file for expungement under this section (although you may be eligible under the Clean Slate or Drug Court expungement statutes).

Special Treatment of Marijuana and Marijuana-Related Offenses

For purposes of determining eligibility pursuant to this section, it is important to keep in mind that marijuana and marijuana-related offenses are treated differently.

For example, convictions for the following offenses are not considered convictions at all under the expungement statutes and, thus, do not count against a Petitioner when determining eligibility:

  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(4), possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or hashish
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10b, use or being under the influence of marijuana or hashish
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10c – or failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2 – possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia

In addition, for purposes of determining eligibility under this section, the following offenses (which are originally classified as indictable offenses), shall be considered disorderly persons convictions:

  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(11), third-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana (more than one ounce, but less than 5 pounds)
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(12), fourth-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana (less than one ounce)
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a), distribution of marijuana within 1000 feet of a school
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1(a), distribution of marijuana within 500 feet of a public park or housing
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(3), fourth-degree simple possession of marijuana (more than 50 grams)

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.

“Crime Spree” Exception

As explained above, the general rule is that a person can expunge one felony conviction and up to 3 disorderly persons and/or petty disorderly convictions.

Effective October 1, 2018, however, is what is known as the “crime spree” exception.  Although the “crime spree” exception allows individuals to expunge an unlimited number of offenses, this exception is limited in scope. Pursuant to the “crime spree” exception, an individual can expunge an unlimited number of disorderly persons, petty disorderly persons, or indictable convictions, or any combination of the same if:

  • The convictions were entered under a single Judgment of Conviction; or
  • The offenses were “interdependent or closely related in circumstances and were committed as part of a sequence of events that took place within a comparatively short period of time.”

In order to be eligible for the “crime spree” exception, however, the individual must not have any prior or subsequent convictions for any indictable, disorderly, or petty disorderly persons offenses, other than those offenses constituting the so-called “crime spree.”

Early Felony Expungements in New Jersey

As described above, the normal waiting period to expunge a felony conviction and up to 3 disorderly persons offenses is 5 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.  Moreover, fines include any fines, restitution, or other court-ordered financial assessment.

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 3 disorderly person offenses after 4 years so long as:

  1. It has been at least 4 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 “compelling circumstances” exist to grant the expungement.

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, since the Petitioner must show that “compelling circumstances” exist to grant the 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 less than 1 ounce;
  2. Hashish and the total quantity involved was less than 5 grams; and
  3. Any other CDS, provided the conviction was in the 3rd or 4th degree and the court finds that compelling circumstances exist to grant the expungement.

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. The term “fine” as used in the expungement statutes includes any fines, fees, penalties, restitution, or other form of financial assessment.

With respect to a felony conviction, if it has been less than 5 years since you finished paying off your fine, but the 5-year requirement is otherwise satisfied and one of the following circumstances applies, you nonetheless may still be eligible for expungement:

  • If the fines/restitution have been paid in full.  If your fines/restitution have been paid in full, but it has been less than 5 years since you paid them off, the court may permit expungement so long as you can demonstrate either:
    1. You either substantially complied with a payment plan; OR
    2. You could not comply with the payment plan due to compelling circumstances.
      •  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. See N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a)(1). 
  • If the fines/restitution have not yet been paid in full. If the fine/restitution has not yet been satisfied in full due to reasons other than “willful noncompliance,” then, at the time of expungement, the court can convert any remaining monies owed into a civil judgment and proceed with expungement.

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

If after reading this section you determine that you are not eligible to have your felony conviction(s) expunged, please note that there are additional statutes through which you may be eligible for expungement. These include the Drug Court Expungement statutes, the Clean Slate Act expungement statutes, and the Marijuana expungement statutes.

 

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 of the regular expungement statutes. In general, a person is eligible to expunge up to 5 disorderly or petty disorderly persons offfenses 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 3 disorderly persons offenses and/or petty disorderly persons offenses pursuant to the section described above. 

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).  However, as described below, you may apply for an “early pathway” expungement 3 years from the date you complete your sentence.

Special Treatment of Marijuana and Marijuana-Related Offenses

For purposes of determining eligibility pursuant to this section, it is important to keep in mind that marijuana and marijuana-related offenses are treated differently.

For example, convictions for the following offenses are not considered convictions at all under the expungement statutes and, thus, do not count against a Petitioner when determining eligibility:

  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(4), possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or hashish
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10b, use or being under the influence of marijuana or hashish
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10c – or failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2 – possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia

In addition, for purposes of determining eligibility under this section, the following offenses (which are originally classified as indictable offenses), shall be considered disorderly persons convictions:

  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(11), third-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana (more than one ounce, but less than 5 pounds)
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(12), fourth-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana (less than one ounce)
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a), distribution of marijuana within 1000 feet of a school
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1(a), distribution of marijuana within 500 feet of a public park or housing
  • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(3), fourth-degree simple possession of marijuana (more than 50 grams)

“Crime Spree” Exception

As explained above, the general rule is that a person can expunge up to 5 disorderly persons and/or petty disorderly persons convictions or one felony conviction and up to 3 disorderly persons and/or petty disorderly convictions.

Effective October 1, 2018, however, is what is known as the “crime spree” exception.  Pursuant to the “crime spree” exception, an individual can expunge an unlimited number of disorderly persons, petty disorderly persons, or indictable convictions, or any combination of the same if:

  • The convictions were entered on the same day and/or under a single Judgment of Conviction; or
  • The offenses were “interdependent or closely related in circumstances and were committed as part of a sequence of events that took place within a comparatively short period of time.”

In order to be eligible for the “crime spree” exception, however, the individual must not have any prior or subsequent convictions for any indictable, disorderly, or petty disorderly persons offenses, other than those offenses constituting the so-called “crime spree.”

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 compelling circumstances exist to grant the expungement.

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.  The term “fine” as used in the expungement statutes includes any fine, restitution, and other court-ordered financial assessment imposed by the court as part of the sentence for the conviction.

If the fines have been paid in full. 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 fine has been satisfied in full and 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).

If the fines/restitution have not yet been paid in full. If the fines have not yet been satisfied in full due to reasons other than “willful noncompliance,” then, at the time of expungement, the court can convert any remaining monies owed into a civil judgment and proceed with expungement.

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 note that there are additional statutes through which you may be eligible for expungement. These include the Drug Court Expungement statutes, the Clean Slate Act expungement statutes, and the Marijuana expungement statutes.

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. 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, will differ depending on whether your charges were dismissed/acquitted/discharged before or after February 15, 2021.

Expungement of Charges That Were Dismissed On or After February 15, 2021

Pursuant to L.2019, c. 269, which was originally scheduled to take effect on June 15, 2020, but was postponed to an effective date of February 15, 2021, 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, whether in Municipal or Superior Court, your charges will automatically be expunged, without the need to file a petition.

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. Expungements for dispositions in municipal court shall follow procedures developed by the Administrative Director of the Courts.

Expungement of Charges That Were Dismissed Before February 15, 2021

The law relating to automatic expungement of dismissed charges in New Jersey does not apply to offenses that were dismissed before February 15, 2021 (when the new automatic expungement law went into effect). In that case, 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 6 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 1 ounce 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 1 ounce 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).

Clean Slate Expungements

On December 18, 2019, New Jersey enacted the Clean Slate law (L. 2019, c.269), codified at N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5.3,  with respect to expungements. While these laws were originally scheduled to go into effect on June 15, 2020, they were subsequently postponed pursuant to Executive Order 178 to February 15, 2021, due to COVID-19.

The Clean Slate law significantly increases expungement eligibility in the State of New Jersey. While the regular expungement statutes limit the number of offenses that can be expunged (for example, under the regular expungement statutes, a person can expunge one indictable offense and up to three disorderly persons offenses, or up to five disorderly persons offenses if the Petitioner has no indictable offenses), the Clean Slate law places no such limits on expungement eligibility.

So long as the Petitioner has remained offense-free for 10 years, then they are eligible pursuant to the Clean Slate law to expunge an unlimited amount of indictable and disorderly and petty disorderly persons offenses on their record.

In order to be eligible under Clean Slate law, each of the following must be true:

  1. You must not have a conviction for an indictable offense that is never eligible for expungement (such as robbery, rape, kidnapping, first-degree or second-degree possession with intent to distribute CDS, etc.) (see N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(b) and N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(c) for a complete list of these offenses); and
  2.  Ten years must have elapsed from the date of the person’s most recent conviction, payment of the court-ordered financial assessment, satisfactory completion of probation or parole, or release from incarceration, whichever is later.

The above two considerations are the only eligibility requirements. Thus, a person with 20 indictable convictions would theoretically be eligible for a Clean Slate expungement, so long as they meet the 10-year requirement.

In addition, if a Petitioner seeking a Clean Slate expungement had previously had an indictable offense expunged, the Clean Slate law expressly makes it clear that this fact would not act as a bar to eligibility under the Clean Slate law, as it would under the regular expungement statutes pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-14(e).

Exception for Payment of Fines/Restitution

As discussed above, a Petitioner is eligible for a Clean Slate expungement so long as it has been 10 years since they completed their sentenced or paid off their fines/restitution, whichever is later. There is, however, an exception with respect to the fines/restitution.

If the Petitioner otherwise meets the 10-year time requirement, but still owes fines/restitution due to reasons other than “willful noncompliance,” then the court, at the time of the expungement, can enter a civil judgment for the remaining fines/restitution and proceed with expungement.

Automated Clean Slate Process

As of February 15, 2021, the effective date of the Clean Slate law, petitioners must file a formal petition with the Superior Court of New Jersey to expunge their records in accordance with the Clean Slate law. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5.4, however, the Clean Slate law will eventually become automated, meaning there will be no need to file a petition with the Superior Court and that these records will eventually be automatically cleared from individuals’ records.

If and when this automated process is established, then Petitioners are no longer eligible to file for a Clean Slate expungement by petition, as described in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5.3. When, however, this automated system will go into effect is unknown.

Pursuant to the statute, the State of New Jersey has 30 days from the law’s effective date of February 15, 2021, to appoint a “task force” of individuals who will be responsible for making recommendations as to the development of the automated process. Thus, this task force is supposed to be appointed by March 15, 2021.

The task force then has another 30 days to organize, giving them until April 15, 2021, to do that.  After the task force organizes, the task force has another 6 months to identify and recommend solutions to any technological, fiscal, resource, and practical issues that may arise in the development and implementation of the automated process. In doing so, the task force is supposed to analyze and implementation of automated processes in Pennsylvania and California; consult with computer programming organizations regarding implementation; and identify the necessary systemic changes, required technology, cost estimates, and possible sources of funding to develop and maintain this system.

At the end of the 6 months — which would be on or around October 15, 2021 — the task force is to issue a “final report of its findings and recommendations” to the Governor and Legislature. 

The statute, however, is silent as to what happens next, after the task force issues its report of recommendations. It also provides no further timelines with respect to the actual establishment of the automated process. Thus, it is unclear when New Jerseyans can expect the automated system to go into effect.

Should I File For a Clean Slate Expungement Now or Wait Until the Automated Process Goes Into Effect?

Unfortunately, your guess is as good as ours with respect to when the automated process will go into effect. That being said, determining whether or not you should file your Clean Slate expungement now or wait depends on a few considerations.

If time is of the essence, then we recommend that you file your Clean Slate expungement now. If, however, you are in no rush to obtain expungement and you are struggling financially, then it may be in your best interests to wait for the automated process – with one warning.

Ask any New Jersey expungement lawyer and they will tell you that the Clean Slate statute is very, very unclear and leaves many important eligibility questions unanswered. For example, what happens with convictions for third-degree and fourth-degree possession with intent to distribute convictions? Usually, petitioners are required to establish that “compelling circumstances” warrant the expungement of those offenses, which is a fact-specific inquiry requiring written and sometimes oral argument. Are those offenses eligible or ineligible for the automated Clean Slate process?

Also, what happens with local ordinance offenses? Especially local ordinance convictions that were originally charged as 2C criminal offenses? The Clean Slate law does not expressly state how these offenses are to be handled and whether they are eligible for the automated process. Also, if someone was recently convicted of a local ordinance, does that re-start the 10-year clock? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many eligibility questions that are raised by this statute.

As expungement lawyers, our job is to argue for the broadest possible interpretation of expungement statutes on behalf of our clients. In fact, lawyers do their best work and their most important work in grey areas of the law such as this. Due to the vagueness of the Clean Slate law, there is a lot to be argued.

When you rely on the automated process, however, you are obtaining expungement on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.  In other words, the State gets to decide what gets expunged and you, unfortunately, have no say in the matter. For these reasons, unless you are struggling financially and are in no hurry to obtain an expungement, in which case it may be in your best interest to wait to the automated process, we strongly recommend that you obtain an attorney to file your Clean Slate expungement.

Marijuana Expungements

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-5.1, certain marijuana arrests and convictions are eligible for immediate expungement, meaning there is no waiting period that one must have to satisfy before filing for expungement.  Note that this statute does not provide for the automatic expungement of marijuana offenses or convictions, unless your arrest or conviction takes place after May 15, 2021. For those arrests or convictions that take place prior to May 15, 2021, a formal petition for expungement must still be filed, but the petition can be filed at any time, provided the Petitioner has completed their sentence, which includes payment of fines and restitution and completion of probation.

If, however, your marijuana-related offense takes place after May 15, 2021, then, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 52-5.2, your arrest or conviction should be automatically sealed.

The following marijuana offenses are eligible for this immediate expungement:

    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(12), fourth-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana (less than one ounce of marijuana)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a), fourth-degree distribution of marijuana within 1000 feet of a school (less than one ounce of marijuana)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1(a), fourth-degree distribution of marijuana within 500 feet of a public park or housing (less than one ounce of marijuana)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(3), fourth-degree simple possession of marijuana (more than 50 grams of marijuana)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(4),  possession of less than 50 grams of marijuana or hashish (disorderly persons)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10b, use or being under the influence of marijuana or hashish (disorderly persons)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10c – or failure to make lawful disposition of marijuana or hashish (disorderly persons)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:36-2 – possession of marijuana drug paraphernalia (disorderly persons)

The following marijuana offenses are eligible for expungement three years after payment of fines/restitution, completion of probation/parole, release from incarceration, whichever is later:

    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5(b)(11), third-degree possession with intent to distribute marijuana (more than one ounce of marijuana but less than one pound)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7(a), third-degree distribution of marijuana within 1000 feet of a school (more than one ounce of marijuana but less than one pound)
    • N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1(a), third-degree distribution of marijuana within 500 feet of a public park or housing (more than one ounce of marijuana but less than one pound)

Exception for Payment of Fines/Restitution. If the fines/restitution has not yet been satisfied in full due to reasons other than “willful noncompliance,” then, at the time of expungement, the court can convert any remaining monies owed into a civil judgment and proceed with expungement.