Do I Have to go to Court?
Most New Jersey Expungement applications are straightforward and do not require you to go to court. However, there are a few rare situations that might require a court appearance. If you think that your situation is one that will require a court appearance, it’s a good idea to speak with a lawyer. A lawyer can appear in court on your behalf and prepare arguments in your favor.
As part of the expungment process, different agencies will be notified of your application including the prosecutor, sheriff’s department, probation department, etc. These parties have the right to object to your expungement. However, if you satisfy all the requirements, it is very rare that someone will object. It is possible that a person might object with no legal or factual basis, but again, it is a rare situation.
You do not have to worry about the victim or arresting officer objecting because they are not notified of your petition.
Intent to distribute/sell drugs
If you were convicted of possession with intent to distribute or sell drugs, there is a strong chance that the prosecutor will object. This is a serious crime in New Jersey, which has only recently been made eligible for expungement (N.J.S. 2C:52-2(c)(3)). If the prosecutor objects, an in-court hearing will be scheduled. At the hearing, the judge will look at your case to decide whether or not to grant you an expungement. The judge will have to determine whether it is in the “public interest” to clear your record. Some factors evaluated include: the nature of the offense and your character and conduct since the offense. In court you will have to argue why you deserve an expungement.
For example, if since your arrest you have gotten a steady job and stayed out of trouble, there is a good chance that the court will grant you an expungement. On the other hand, if you have gotten into trouble, the judge will be more likely to deny your petition. If the judge denies your expungement, you have a right to appeal it. However, the appeals process is lengthy and complex.
Felony expungement in 5 years
Although you must typically wait 10 years to expunge a felony offense, you may be able to expunge the offense in 5 years if it is consistent with the “public interest.” The court will determine this by looking at your character and conduct since the conviction. It is likely that the prosecutor will object in this circumstance and an in-court hearing will be required. In court you will have to argue why you deserve an expungement.