Are you looking for options to clear your criminal record? Expungements and pardons are two different post-conviction processes that may help someone convicted of an offense regain their rights and avoid the discrimination that often comes with a criminal record.
The criminal defense lawyers at Keith Oliver Criminal Law have helped many clients seek post-conviction relief. We’re here to help you understand the difference between a pardon and expungement, who is eligible for each, and how we can help you pursue the best option for your case.
Expungement vs. Pardon in New Jersey
Expungement is the sealing of a criminal record from public access, while a pardon forgives a crime. Expunged records could pertain to an arrest, detention, trial, or conviction for eligible offenses, which includes the following:
- A single indictable offense
- Disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses
- Youthful drug offenses
- Marijuana and hashish offenses
- Municipal ordinance violations
Typically, a person must wait five years after their sentence is served to apply for an expungement. But the waiting period is shorter in some instances. For example, someone arrested for but not convicted of a crime can apply for an immediate expungement.
After 10 years, an individual can apply for a clear slate expungement to clear their entire record. But they must pay all fines and fees, complete probation or parole, and avoid new criminal charges. They can apply for an expungement with a judge in the superior court of the county where the record resides.
Also known as executive clemency, a pardon essentially forgives someone for a crime. Unlike an expungement, a pardon could happen while an individual is still serving a sentence. If pardoned, they would be immediately released from prison and will not have to serve the rest of their sentence. The New Jersey Constitution grants the governor the sole power to grant state-level pardons.
Someone who receives a pardon will have all their civil rights restored to them and will be relieved from all legal disabilities. They will also have their civil rights restored, including voting and gun rights, and will be relieved of any roadblocks, such as limitations on employment opportunities. However, they will still have a criminal record unless they apply for expungement.
It is important to note that expungement or pardon of a federal crime is entirely different. The vast majority of federal crimes are not eligible for expungement. Only a small subset of minor offenses under the Controlled Substances Act can be expunged, and only the president can grant pardons for federal crimes.
How to Get an Executive Pardon
It is not easy to get an executive pardon in New Jersey. To begin the process, you must submit an executive clemency application to the New Jersey State Parole Board. Any person convicted of a state crime in New Jersey can apply for a pardon at any time. There are no formal eligibility requirements for a pardon.
While applications are reviewed, investigated, and recommended by the New Jersey State Parole Board, a pardon is the governor’s decision. In general, governors may consider the following factors in deciding pardons:
- The facts and circumstances of the offense, trial, and sentence
- The applicant’s life circumstances leading up to the conviction
- The applicant’s actions, decisions, and behavior since their conviction
Can You Get an Expungement or Pardon for a Felony in NJ?
You may receive an expungement or pardon for an indictable offense in New Jersey – a crime known as a felony in most jurisdictions. Expungements may be granted for a single indictable offense during a person’s lifetime. However, most serious and violent offenses are not eligible, such as:
- Crimes against children
- Sex crimes
- Serious drug offenses
The governor can grant a pardon for any offense, including indictable crimes. Even so, pardons are very rare. According to the Collateral Consequences Resource Center, recent New Jersey governors have granted relatively few pardons. Governor Chris Christie granted 52 pardons, including six to out-of-state residents convicted of New Jersey gun crimes. Governor Jon Corzine granted 13 pardons out of over 400 applications, primarily to non-violent offenders with decades-old convictions. Current Governor Phil Murphy has not issued any pardons so far.
How Can an NJ Expungement Lawyer Help?
The application process for an expungement can be complicated. Your application’s correctness, timeliness, and persuasiveness will significantly impact your chances of success. Knowing whether you are eligible to apply and which court to apply with can be confusing. When it comes to your future, freedom, and rights, you need a professional’s help. This is not the time to try to represent yourself. There is too much at stake.
You should consider hiring a New Jersey lawyer to handle your expungement application. An experienced expungement attorney can:
- Advise on your eligibility for an expungement
- Request your entire New Jersey criminal record, as required for your application
- Prepare a persuasive application for expungement
- Represent you in front of the judge if necessary
Contact an Experienced Expungement and Pardon Attorney in New Jersey
You may be eligible for an expungement or pardon if you have a criminal arrest or conviction on your New Jersey record. If successful, these post-conviction relief processes could open doors, restore rights, remove burdens, and set you on a new path to a better life.
Contact an expungement and pardon attorney at Keith Oliver Criminal Law to learn more about your eligibility for an expungement or pardon. Our lawyers have helped many clients restore their freedoms and rebuild their lives. We believe everyone deserves a second chance and a fresh start. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.