As indicated on our FAQ page, not everyone can have his or her records expunged. Sometimes this inability arises on account of the nature of the crime. Sometimes it is on account of the number of convictions. Or perhaps not enough time has passed. Expungement of federal charges ranges between difficult and impossible.
When records cannot be expunged, life gets complicated. Basically, two choices remain: Accept the situation and move on as best you can; or explore ”Plan B.” Actually, several “Plans B” exist. We briefly outline some of these Plans B on this page and also provide some links to additional information.
Executive ClemencyExecutive Clemency is also called a “Pardon”. New Jersey pardons can be granted only by the governor. Federal pardons can be granted only by the President. Pardons can be granted before charges are even filed, while charges are still pending, or following conclusion of the case. Pardons constitute complete “forgiveness” for the event (or events) in question. Petitioners seeking expungement of records on matters on which executive clemency has been granted may apply immediately; it is not automatic.
The Certificate of RehabilitationThe Certificate of Rehabilitation is a declaration from a court or from a supervising agency that the offender is “rehabilitated.” The supervising agency might be a probation department, or it might be the parole board. This Certificate of Rehabilitation does not in any way “erase” the conviction. Rather, what it does is remove impediments to licensure that arise under New Jersey law. Thus upon obtaining a Certificate of Rehabilitation, convictions that previously might previously have prevented a person from obtaining a license to sell real estate, or be a cosmetologist, or a registered nurse will (at least in theory) no longer be a legal barrier.
Seal the RecordsNot all records of arrests and convictions can be expunged. Under present New Jersey law, records of convictions for certain serious offenses can never be expunged. Examples of such offenses are murder, arson, robbery, and perjury. For records relating to convictions for those events that occurred in a person's adulthood, no in-between exists. The same is not true, however, for records of events that occurred when the person was a juvenile. Records relating to juvenile adjudications for offenses such as those listed above still cannot be expunged. For those types of records, however, an in-between option does exist. That option is called sealing. And after sealing, expungement may become possible. This area of the law is presently in flux. Note also that, even without sealing, juvenile records are generally unavailable to the public. The sealing option enhances the unavailability of those records.
Reopen the Original CaseProcedures exist to reopen previous convictions. One procedure is an application to set aside a guilty plea. A second procedure is to apply for something called Post Conviction Relief. The two procedures are very different from one another. For federal convictions, the closest there is to post conviction relief is habeas corpus.
Relief from DisabilitiesRelief from Disabilities is a federal procedure. The disabilities that are relieved are disabilities relating to the purchase and possession of firearms. For reasons explained on our Relief from Disabilities page, Relief from Disabilities is difficult or impossible to obtain.
Change Your NameChanging your name neither expunges nor seals the record. Answers that you provide under oath must still disclose your past, when asked. Searches done using your fingerprints, or done using your DNA, will find your history. What the name change does accomplish, however, is help prevent persons with whom you deal in everyday life from associating your past with you. Thus the name change may enable you to escape what an internet search would otherwise reveal. When you answer questions not under oath, lying, generally, is an ethical issue, not a criminal offense. Our After the Expungement page provides information concerning how you might approach such questions.
Two kinds of name changes exist. These are your “common law” name changes, and your statutory name changes. Common law name changes do not require any court activity; statutory name changes do. N.J.S. 2A:52-1 specifies requirements for statutory name changes in New Jersey. Rule 4:72 sets forth court procedure concerning applications for statutory name change. In large measure, the court rule duplicates the requirements of the statute.
The InternetA non-legal “Plan B” involves working the internet in a way that helps to hide events that cannot be expunged. Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ do not provide that service. Companies exist that do. We provide links to those companies elsewhere on this site.
Wait it OutAnother option is to “wait it out.” Eligibility or ineligibility to obtain expungement of New Jersey criminal history records is determined by New Jersey statutes. Statutes change. What may not be expunged today can perhaps be expunged in the future, if expungement laws are relaxed. (The opposite is also true--the law could change so that records that can be expunged today could become ineligible in the future.)
Waiting it out can be the least satisfactory solution because while you are waiting it out, life is passing you by. Still, sometimes, and depending on circumstances, it may be the most practical solution available.
Try AnywayThis option involves the situation where, under existing expungements statutes and caselaw, your history cannot be expunged, but you want the court to break new ground. One possibility here invokes “the equitable jurisdiction of the court.” In this approach, we argue that the particular circumstances of your case are so compelling that the court should expunge your record even though the statutes do not provide for that expungement.
Although occasionally successful elsewhere, Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ know of no instances under New Jersey law where this approach has succeeded. Nonetheless, this approach is available, at least in theory. The sad truths however, are that it is a fight that would take a very long time, would be very expensive (think five-figures, and probably not low five figures), and has a good likelihood to ultimately be not successful.
FuhgetAboutItFuhgetAboutIt is a variation of the Wait it Out option indicated above. The difference is that FuhgetAboutIt entails acceptance of your record as a permanent condition, and moving on from there. The advantages of FuhgetAboutIt are both practical and psychological. The practical benefit is that it enables you to apply your day to day efforts to goals that are more readily attainable. It also preserves funds that might otherwise have been expended on a cause with little likelihood of success. The psychological benefit of FuhgetAboutIt is that it enables you to move existence of your record to a corner of your mind that will less weigh you down. The disadvantage, of course, is that your record is still unexpunged.
“Which Is Best for Me?”Many factors are involved in determining which procedure is best likely to enable you to move forward with your life. These factors include the following:
- What were you found guilty of?
- When were you convicted?
- Were you convicted at trial, or as the result of a guilty plea?
- What is the specific reason that you considered seeking an expungement in the first place? Employment? To hunt or go target shooting? To join the military? Other?
- What changes in law is the New Jersey Legislature considering, and what is their likelihood of passage?
- To what extent does your record constitute psychological discomfort that an expungement would alleviate?
- How large a financial risk are you willing (and able) to take?
Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ charge a flat fee, generally $985.00, for the review and discussion just described. Their fee will be higher if it is necessary to review trial transcripts or voluminous discovery. Expenses associated with investigation, including costs for records, may be additional. However, only a single review and discussion fee is charged, even when more than just one session is needed. At the conclusion of the review, Expungement Lawyers in New Jersey™ will normally be able to indicate what additional charges would be incurred in order to actually pursue any of the available procedures.
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