Expungement of Criminal Records

One of the most important things a defendant in a criminal case should do is to apply to expunge his or her criminal record, as soon as the law allows. This is true even if the case was dismissed, or the defendant was allowed to enter into a Pre-Trial Intervention Program where, if successful, the charges are ultimately dismissed. It should be done in Superior Court matters, as well as Municipal Court cases, even where the defendant was sentenced to the Conditional Discharge Program, for alcohol and drug related municipal offenses.

The concept of expungement arises out of the concept that every person deserves a second chance, and if a person has otherwise had an unblemished record for a period of time after the earlier conviction or completion of a rehabilitative program, they should not have to go their whole life carrying the stigma of a criminal conviction. Of course, there are certain very serious offenses for which expungement will not be granted, such as kidnapping, murder, armed robbery etc.

The time when a defendant can apply for expungement of a criminal record varies with the Court and the offense to which the defendant pled guilty. Generally the more serious the crime, and the higher the Court in which the case was handled, the longer a person must wait to seek expungement.

For Municipal Court prosecutions, if the case is dismissed, a defendant may seek expungement right away. If the defendant pleads guilty to a municipal ordinance violation, the waiting period is two years from the day of conviction. If the defendant pleads guilty to a disorderly persons offense, the waiting period is five years. With Superior Court matters, which are felonies, a defendant must wait for a period of ten years from the date of conviction. Where a defendant has been entered into a rehabilitative program, such as Pre-Trial Intervention in Superior Court or Conditional Discharge in Municipal Court, the waiting period is six months from the end of the period of probationary supervision resulting in the dismissal of the charges.