“Early pathway” other “public interest” expungement applications, and applications for executive clemency, when done right, are a considerable undertaking. “When done right” means when done in the manner best likely to succeed. Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ charge $4,000.00 to process these applications. This amount is not payable all at the beginning. Rather, it is payable in “stages,” as follows:
We actually start with what we can think of as “Stage Zero.” Stage Zero consists of initial informal chats, either by phone, or email, or even an office visit. In these chats, we get acquainted. You get to size us up as we get some information about your overall situation. We formulate and share with you a very preliminary impression as to whether it is worth while proceeding further. Stage Zero usually incurs no legal fee at all. A fee may be required, however, if the Stage Zero conference is prolonged, or if it takes place a significant amount of time before you become eligible to seek the expungement. If anything in Stage Zero were to require a fee, we would inform you before we reached that point. Further, that fee would be applied, in whole or in large part, as a credit towards fees in any subsequent stages.
If Stage Zero seems promising, we can proceed to Stage One. Stage One requires a payment of $1,000.00 (minus any credit for payments made in Stage Zero). In most cases, Stage One also requires an expenses deposit of $200.00. Stage One consists, for the most part, of information gathering. We tell you the types of materials that we believe will help persuade judges that granting the expungement is in the public interest. We suggest sources for those materials. We review materials that you provide and, where appropriate, suggest more persuasive forms for those materials. Some of the materials we actually obtain ourselves, using the expenses deposit just mentioned. At the conclusion of Stage One, we refund any unexpended portion of your expenses deposit. Alternatively, with your permission, we apply that unexpended portion to the Stage Two installment.
Information gathering is the most time-consuming part of Stage One. However, Stage One includes an equally important activity. Upon completion of information gathering, we review all materials accumulated to that point. Drawing upon our knowledge and experience, we formulate an opinion concerning likelihood of eventual success. We discuss that opinion with you. Armed with that opinion, you then decide to either continue or not continue. It is the making of that decision that concludes Stage One.
If your decision is to not continue, no further amounts become payable and the project concludes. Otherwise an additional installment of $1,000.00 becomes payable, and we advance to Stage Two. Stage Two is typically the quickest of the three stages. In Stage Two, we prepare the form of Petition. This form of Petition contains your entire past court history. It details all of your arrests and convictions. It makes reference to an affidavit that we will be preparing and filing at a later point in the processing.
We provide this form of Petition to you. You review it. We answer the questions that you have concerning it. You satisfy yourself that the form of Petition is accurate, and that it is complete. We process any additions or changes that you may call to our attention. When we are in agreement that the form of Petition is in its final form, you sign it and have it notarized. If you happen to be within convenient distance from our office, we can notarize it when you sign it in our presence. Otherwise we mail it to you, you take it to any convenient notary, have it notarized, and return it to us together with the final $2,000.00 installment.
Now starts Stage Three. Stage Three is typically the longest of the three stages. If we're processing an expungement application (as opposed to an application for executive clemency), we begin Stage Three by mailing the Petition to the court for filing. The court will require much more materials than just the Petition. By filing, however, we establish our place in line for court processing. With our place in line, our application, although far from complete, will be advancing in the court's queue while we continue our work.
Now we will take the materials obtained in Stage One and incorporate them into a form of affidavit. Documents that we obtained in Stage One will be exhibits to that form of affidavit. The form of affidavit will not necessarily include all of the documents that you provided. We do not include documents merely because we have them. Rather, we include documents only when it appears that those documents will help move our application in the desired direction.
When the form of affidavit is completed, you review it. You assure yourself that it is accurate. Once you are satisfied as to its accuracy, you sign and notarize it, just as you notarized the Petition in Stage Two. We then forward your affidavit to the court, for the judge to consider along with the previously filed Petition. (For executive clemency, we forward the completed Petition and affidavit to the appropriate executive agency.
While we prepare your expungement affidavit in Stage Three, the court is superficially reviewing the Petition that we filed at the beginning of that stage. This initial review looks only at the form of the Petition, not the substance. If the court finds the Petition to be in satisfactory form, the court specifies a hearing date. In most instances, that date is the deadline within which our remaining work is to be completed. That remaining work is the completion of the affidavit just described, and filing that affidavit, plus other materials, with the court.
Stage Three is still not complete. On an “in the public interest” expungement, courts will often require a personal appearance. This personal appearance may be required even when no one objects to the expungement application. If anyone does object, it becomes even more likely that a personal appearance will be required. When a personal appearance is scheduled, it may be only the attorney that must appear. Even when the court does not require you to attend, we encourage you to appear regardless. The judge always likes to see the person. And the judge may have questions, or want sworn testimony.
The judge makes a decision. The judge tells us that decision, either at the hearing itself, or later, by letter. The judge issues an Order that reflects that decision. The judge provides a copy of that Order to the parties.
Stage Three includes additional procedural tasks. We attend to all of those tasks as needed. We keep you informed every step of the way.
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