Friday, August 25, 2017

Clearing Your Record Through Expungement

What convictions are eligible for expungement in New Jersey?

Having a criminal record can seriously impact your ability to find employment, apply for loans or scholarships, and better your career.  Your criminal record will be visible to potential employers, schools, and others.  Even if you were not convicted of a particular crime, you will still have an arrest and arraignment record, which could be enough for potential employers to pass on your job application.  The good news for some people in New Jersey is that there are ways to erase your criminal record.  The process is called Read more . . .

Saturday, September 26, 2015

New Jersey Supreme Court Issues Pivotal Warning on Expungement Requests

What is the current status of expungement laws in New Jersey?

Expungement of a criminal record is a somewhat complex process that can reap innumerable benefits for the former criminal defendant. In very limited circumstances, a former offender can have a minor criminal or juvenile matter permanently segregated from his or her record, thereby allowing for greater employment and/or academic opportunities. More specifically, an expungement allows for the segregation of records relating to arrests, charges and convictions. However, in light of a recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, expungements may now be more difficult to obtain for those who were involved in a repetitive or multi-component criminal event.

In a 5-2 decision reached in August, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that an expungement is only possible in a situation involving a “single, uninterrupted” criminal event. The underlying cases involved two consolidated appeals, one involving the sale of marijuana to an undercover officer, and one involving a local developer offering a series of bribes to a town council. In the marijuana case, the defendant sold drugs on two separate occasions over a five-day period, whereas the developer engaged in bribery through several phone calls in a 48-hour period.

After both petitioners were denied their request for expungement, they appealed their cases through the New Jersey court system. At the heart of the matter was the language of the state expungement statute, which limits the expungement process to those who have not been convicted of any prior or subsequent crime. In considering this language, the court concluded that a defendant who was charged with multiple criminal counts – even if arising out of a single actual event – were precluded from eligibility for expungement. More specifically, expungement is only available for a defendant who has committed just one, singular criminal act, “not one or more crimes closely related in circumstances or in time.”

If you are facing a recent criminal charge, our team of professionals can help you possibly overcome the burdens of a criminal record. To make an appointment for a consultation, call Sitzler & Sitzler today: 609-267-1101.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Woman Facing Gun Charges Pardoned By Governor Christie

How strict are New Jersey gun laws?

A Philadelphia woman was driving down the shore to celebrate her young son's birthday when she was stopped by a New Jersey state trooper in Hamilton Township for a lane change. She told the officer that she had a gun loaded with hollow-point bullets in her purse. She had purchased and legally registered the gun in Pennsylvania because she worked odd hours and had been robbed twice. Still, she was arrested and charged with illegally bringing a concealed weapon into New Jersey; she faced up to five years in prison.

New Jersey gun laws are among the strictest in the nation. Even if this woman's gun had been registered in New Jersey, it is required to be transported unloaded and locked in the vehicle's trunk. But, the gun was not registered in New Jersey, and at first, prosecutors wanted to make an example out of this case to deter others from bringing guns registered elsewhere into the state.

Eventually, the woman was allowed to enter a pretrial intervention program that required her to give up her gun and complete 25 hours of community service rather than go to jail. Instead, Governor Christie pardoned the woman from all criminal charges, which will expunge her record and allow her to be a gun owner again.

The governor's pardon was a welcome end to this woman's ordeal. She had spent 40 days in Atlantic County jail before posting bail on her charges. Her case had the attention of gun rights advocates and organizations. Governor Christie has made clear that he will use executive tools such as pardons since the legislature is not changing the state's gun laws.

If you or a loved one is facing weapons charges, the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler can help. We represent clients throughout Southern New Jersey in a wide variety of misdemeanor (disorderly person charge) and felony (indictable charge) cases. Contact our Hainesport, New Jersey office today at (609)267-1101.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Burlington County Theft Puts Spotlight on School Employee's Criminal Record

Despite his criminal conviction for theft, Fardarie Mitchell was able to work for the Willingboro, New Jersey School District, first as a security guard, then as a crisis intervention counselor.  He is now alleged to be the thief behind the disappearance of 12 iPads from a Burlington County elementary school. 

A criminal conviction would, ordinarily, have disqualified him from employment, but an old loophole in New Jersey State law allowed him to stay under the school district's radar.  The law has since been changed, and future employees may not be so lucky.
When he applied for a job as a security guard in 2002, Mitchell was fingerprinted as part of a criminal background check.  He passed and was hired.  State law at the time required that fingerprints be destroyed after a background check.  After 2003, the law permitted fingerprint records to remain on file for use by law enforcement.

In 2010, Mitchell was convicted of third-degree theft.  Because his fingerprints had been destroyed in 2002 under the old law, the New Jersey state police did not find them in their files or notify the school district.

Though Mitchell had held different positions during his career, he never changed school districts, so he was never required to undergo a new background check that might have exposed his 2010 conviction.

For employees with a criminal record, the case is a reminder that arrests and convictions can be discovered years later, particularly now that the loophole that benefited Mitchell has been closed.

One possible solution is expungement.  The New Jersey Criminal Code allows someone arrested or convicted of a crime to apply for removal of a criminal record from law enforcement and court files.  There are some exceptions—certain crimes cannot be expunged, and for some jobs, an applicant must still disclose past encounters with the criminal justice system.

If you are an employee or a job applicant concerned that a criminal conviction, recent or long ago, could prove damaging to your career, expert counsel can advise you on the best way to go forward.  The criminal law attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler have extensive experience with the New Jersey expungement process and can help you get results.  For a consultation on your matter call (609)267-1101. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Law Aids New Jersey Job Applicants with Criminal Records

A conviction for a crime, even a minor offense or youthful mistake, can result in a criminal record that lasts a lifetime.  It can hinder job applicants when applying for a position and block them from pursuing some careers entirely.  Often the only solution is to try to obtain an Order of Expungement of the criminal record. 

A new law recently signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie makes it a little easier for those with a criminal history to apply for work.  The Opportunity to Compete Act or “ban-the-box” bill restricts employers' inquiries into applicants' criminal backgrounds, at least in initial interviews or questionnaires.  

An employer may still make inquiries later in the job application process, after the initial interview.  At that point, there are no restrictions on what an employer may ask concerning one’s criminal record, though the employer may not ask about convictions expunged or erased by a pardon.  Also, if it is the applicant who raises the issue of a criminal conviction during the initial phase of a job application, the employer may inquire further. 

Still, the new law would prevent employers from instantly disqualifying an applicant who answers “yes” when asked if he or she was ever convicted of a crime. 

Employers who violate the act would have to pay civil penalties for each violation -- $1,000 for the first, $5,000 for the second and $10,000 for the third and subsequent violations.  

Even under the new law, an expungement or pardon might be the only way to prevent inquiries into one's criminal past at some point during the application process.  There are some professions for which even expungement may not be effective.  In some instances, an attorney may recommend a "Certificate of Rehabilitation." 

A record of arrest or conviction, even for a seemingly minor traffic offense or a juvenile crime, can negatively impact your future.  For advice on how to remove it from your record or minimize its impact, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Sitzler & Sitzler.  They have expertise in all areas of criminal law, including expungement of offenses from your record.  Contact us today for a free consultation.

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