One of the least known laws of New Jersey, but one of the most important, is the law governing expungements. Whenever a person is formally charged with a crime, a disorderly person’s offense or even a municipal ordinance violation, a criminal record is created. The person has been “arrested,” that is, accused of committing a crime or criminal offense. A record of the charge remains even if the accused is acquitted by a judge or jury. Successful completion of a diversionary program may result in the dismissal of a criminal charge, but it does not expunge, or erase, the record of arrest.
A properly developed petition for expungement can lead to a Superior Court order isolating all records of an arrest not only with police departments, court clerks, state police, but even the records of the FBI.
Equally important, a person who has had an arrest or a conviction expunged is free to deny the accusation, even under oath. The amazing aspect of expungement law is that the statute even permits expungement of convictions for many crimes after a statutory waiting period has expired.
An expungement can give a young person a fresh start in the competitive job market, or give an individual the peace of mind to know that a past offense will not cause embarrassment in the future. Expungement is one of the most important tools in a criminal defense lawyer’s arsenal. It protects a client’s reputation by eliminating the stigma of arrest or conviction.