There is simply no legal requirement that an attorney handle the expungement of your criminal record in New Jersey. Like almost any other area of law, such as a divorce, personal injury lawsuit, or landlord-tenant dispute, an expungement is something that you are permitted to appear for yourself on (also known as proceeding “pro se” or “on one’s own behalf”).
New Jersey’s expungement laws, however, can be quite confusing and the expungement process itself is lengthy, complex, and time consuming. Your expungements may also require your attendance at a hearing. If you have the patience and ability to read through the expungement laws and statutory requirements and you do not mind representing yourself at court hearings, then you may be able to handle your New Jersey expungement on your own. A good place to start with your research would be to read over the New Jersey Expungement Forms, which are also available on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website, together with the New Jersey Expungement Statutes.
You should also be aware that there are technical requirements that must be met in order for your expungement petition to be granted. Moreover, both prosecutors and judges will require strict adherence to the technical requirements contained within the New Jersey expungement statutes. Some prosecutors, in fact, insist on requirements beyond what is specified within those statutes. If you miss any of the requisite steps, your expungement petition may be dismissed, requiring you to start the process all over again. Your expungement could also be complicated if the County Prosecutor objects to your expungement.
Even if you think are up for the challenge of representing yourself on your New Jersey expungement, however, you should be aware that there are certain more challenging situations in which it is strongly advised that your hire an attorney to represent you on your expungement. Those situations include:
- When you are applying for an “early pathway” expungement (i.e., it has been less than 10 years since you completed your sentence on your felony conviction and/or it has been less than 5 years since you completed your sentence on your disorderly persons conviction);
- When you are seeking to expunge a felony conviction for the sale, distribution, or manufacture of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) or possession of CDS with the intent to sell;
- When you have more than 3 convictions on your record;
- When you have out-of-state convictions on your record (this may effect eligibility); and
- When you are seeking to expunge your entire criminal record as a New Jersey drug court graduate.
In the end, most people simply do not have the time and/or simply do not want to deal with the challenge of trying to figure out the legal process on their own and, therefore, seek an attorney to handle their expungement. When doing so, it is critical that you hire an attorney that focuses on New Jersey expungement law.
Beware of Legal Document Preparation Services
It is also advisable that you avoid hiring a document preparation service to prepare your expungement paperwork. Only a licensed attorney will be able to handle your expungement matter from start to finish and attend all hearings on your behalf.
These days, there are hundreds of non-attorney Internet services that will “help” with your expungement. The fees for these services can range anywhere from $99 to several hundred dollars just to prepare your expungement paperwork. These fees almost never include court filing fees or other various expenses. Most importantly, however, these services are not governed by the New Jersey State Bar and the “services” include simply filling out the forms mentioned above that you can obtain for free on the New Jersey Judiciary’s website.
In short, if you decide to hire one of these low-cost document preparation services you will have to handle all other parts of the expungement process yourself. Thus, you will have to file the petition yourself and serve the petition on all of the requisite agencies yourself. You will have to ensure that all of the detailed filing requirements are met (for example, all notice requirements, etc.). If the County Prosecutor objects to your expungement and/or requests an amendment to your petition, you will have to respond on your own. If the Judge or Law Clerk assigned to handle your expungement requires additional information, you will have to respond on your own. If your expungement requires a hearing, you will have to appear at the hearing and represent yourself in court.
To learn more about how to find the best New Jersey expungement lawyer, read our posts on How to Find an Affordable Expungement Lawyer and How to Find the Best Expungement Lawyer in New Jersey.
Affordable New Jersey Expungement Lawyers
At Katherine O’Brien Law, we are real expungement attorneys – not a document preparation service. We will handle everything for your expungement from the beginning to the end. Since we are licensed to practice expungement law in New Jersey, we can answer your questions and give you legal advice according to your specific situation. Moreover, if the County Prosecutor objects to your expungement (a very common situation), we will draft a legal brief in response to their objection. Moreover, if a hearing is required, we will attend the hearing on your behalf (you will not be required to attend the hearing with us in 90% of our cases).
At Katherine O’Brien Law, we are one of the only law firms in New Jersey that focuses almost solely on matters related to criminal record clearing. This, in turn, allows us to provide you with experienced, knowledgeable, and focused legal services at the lowest prices. We pride ourselves on providing our clients with impeccable customer service, and we greatly look forward to serving you.
Our flat rate expungement fees are also affordable. Our basic fee for handling your expungement is $895.00. This all-inclusive rate includes all court costs, filing fees, mailing expenses, etc. Moreover, we provide flexible payment plans and get started working on your New Jersey expungement for as little as $350.00 down. Call us today for a free consultation or fill out our Expungement Interview Form.