Expungement is a process by which an individual who has been convicted of a felony, disorderly person’s offense, petty disorderly person’s offense, or ordinance can ask the court to remove certain arrests and convictions from their criminal history report. Individuals who have had charges dismissed are also eligible for expungement. Both adults and juveniles are eligible for an expungement. The rules applying to expungements differ depending on the types of crimes on a person’s record. The standard waiting period before someone can apply for an expungement is 6 years for a felony matter and 5 years for a disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons and 2 years for an ordinance violation. These waiting periods start once an individual has completed his/her sentence, including payment of fines. For an individual whose charges were dismissed, different waiting periods apply. When a case is dismissed outright, then the person is immediately eligible for an expungement of that arrest. When a case is dismissed after a diversion program, such as pre-trial intervention or conditional discharge, the individual must wait 6 months from the date of the dismissal before being eligible for an expungement of that offense. For individuals with multiple prior convictions, the eligibility to file for an expungement is dependent on the person’s criminal history.
There are also options to reduce the waiting period for expungements. The waiting time can be reduced if the individual can demonstrate that an expungement is in the public interest.
Why is expungement beneficial?
The process of expungement allows individuals to start fresh and clean without a record. Except in very limited circumstances, access to expunged records is prohibited and therefore cannot be obtained by most employers. Those interested in entering a profession which requires a license or certification, or someone interested in a career in law enforcement will likely be required to disclose expunged offenses. Expunged offenses may also be accessed should an individual wish to apply for a gun permit. Notwithstanding these limited exceptions, expunged records are not available to the general public and all records relating to expunged records are removed access by court staff and law enforcement. Thus, if someone wants to search your criminal history after an expungement, the information will no longer be available.