New Changes to Expungement Statute

Significant changes to New Jersey’s expungement law were signed into effect by Governor Chris Christie on January 16, 2016.

Expungement for Drug Court Graduates

The most dramatic and telegraphed change allows successful graduates of drug court or court-ordered rehabilitation to automatically expunge their entire record of arrests or convictions. The Court shall grant relief unless it determines that the need for records outweighs the desirability of granting the expungement or the individual had been convicted of a non-expungeable offense. Such individuals must remain “offense-free” during and after their period of rehabilitation in order to qualify for the relief.

No fees will be required for this expungement and the regular expungement procedures under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 et seq. are not applicable to this section—it shall proceed in accordance with rules and procedures developed by the Supreme Court. If an individual completed drug court prior to the enactment of this section, however, they may apply under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 et seq. except the time limitations will not apply, and the court may order the expungement of all arrests and convictions at the time of discharge from drug court.

Expungement of Indictable and Disorderly Person’s Convictions

Another significant change allows individuals with one indictable conviction and up to two disorderly person’s convictions to expunge their entire record. Previously, a conviction for an indictable offense disqualified a petitioner from expunging any disorderly persons convictions.

Also, those having disorderly persons convictions may be eligible for early pathway expungement. Early pathway expungement permits the court to expunge a conviction prior to the requisite waiting period if there were no new offenses and the court deems the expungement in the public interest (giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction). Previously, this relief was only available for those with indictable convictions.

Administratively, the changes require a separate petition for each conviction, though they may be filed in a single application. The new law also states that a petition involving multiple offenses must be filed in the county where the indictable conviction was adjudicated or the most recent disorderly person’s conviction was entered (if there were no indictable convictions).

Automatic Expungement of Dismissed Cases

The new law will also make the expungement of arrests not leading to conviction automatic after the entry of dismissal. At the time of adjudication, the Superior Court will automatically expunge dismissals, acquittals and arrests not leading to conviction. For municipal court matters, the municipal court will provide upon request, an application to expunge which should be sent to the Superior Court (under procedures promulgated by the AOC).

Here also, no fee will be required for this expungement and the expungement provisions set forth at N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 et seq. shall not apply. If an individual has a dismissed case prior to the enactment of this section, however, they may apply under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1 et seq.