"These amendments represent a growing acknowledgement in New Jersey of the unnecessary limitations caused by simply having a past arrest or conviction."
By CSG Justice Center Staff
Two new laws take effect in New Jersey this year that expand the scope of juvenile and adult record clearance and reduce the time people must wait to request it. The laws were passed by the New Jersey Legislature in late 2017.
Unlike most states, New Jersey law allows for the clearance of an entire juvenile record after a waiting period is completed, in addition to providing for clearance on a case-by-case basis. As of April 1, 2018, one of the new laws, S3308, cut that waiting period from five years to three years. For expungement of an entire record, the three-year waiting period starts at the person’s final discharge from legal custody or the entry of the last court order in the case. The other eligibility factors remain unchanged by the new law, which requires that the person must
“The National Juvenile Defender Center applauds New Jersey for shortening the waiting period for certain juvenile record expungements, which could reduce some of the barriers young people face when seeking employment, accessing housing, and applying for college,” said Mary Ann Scali, the executive director of the National Juvenile Defender Center.
The new law regarding adult records, S3307—which takes effect on October 1, 2018—contains a raft of changes to adult criminal record expungement provisions, expanding the number of records that can be expunged and making expungement available sooner. The law reduces the waiting period to request expungement of conviction records for crimes from 10 years to 6 years, allows more records to be expunged, and removes the bar to expungement for people who have had charges dismissed after completing a supervisory treatment or other diversion program. The old law dictated that anyone seeking expungement was limited to one crime (defined as an offense punishable by more than six months of imprisonment) and two lesser offenses (termed “disorderly persons” and “petty disorderly persons” offenses, which are not crimes). The new law allows more combinations of records to be considered for expungement, including
Those seeking to expunge conviction records of only lesser offenses have more options under the new law as well. The limit of one lesser offense was raised to four, and the following categories were added:
In all of the above categories, the law requires that the person seeking expungement have no other prior or later convictions.
The new law also addresses the fact that unpaid fines from criminal cases can keep expungement out of reach for people who would otherwise qualify. As is common in other states, the waiting period to request expungement in New Jersey begins when the most recent case is completely over—and all fines are paid in full. The new law provides relief by
“These amendments represent a growing acknowledgement in New Jersey of the unnecessary limitations caused by simply having a past arrest or conviction,” said Akil Roper, vice president and assistant general counsel at Legal Services of New Jersey. “Removing these barriers earlier in the process—and expanding eligibility—will positively impact many people, families and communities.”
After lobbying by a diverse group that included record clearance advocates, business leaders, and Philadelphia Eagles players, Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Act is set to take full effect on June 28, 2019.
North Carolina’s General Assembly moved to significantly reduce waiting periods and expand the number of records eligible for clearance with Session Law 2017-195, which went into effect December 1, 2017.
A record clearance law enacted in August 2017 put Illinois at the forefront of states expanding access to criminal record clearance.