Interviewer: What would you say are the most common misconceptions that people have about expungements?
Lauren Scardella: People often confuse dismissal with expungement. They think because something was dismissed that it’s expunged and doesn’t exist anymore, when in reality there is still a record of the person’s arrest and it says that the charge was dismissed but the arrest is still part of the criminal history and doesn’t automatically disappear.
Expungement May be Handled by a Different Attorney Than the One Retained for Handling the Initial Case
Interviewer: Let’s say I worked with a previous attorney, can I engage you perhaps and work with you even though that means I’m working with a different attorney now just for my expungement?
Lauren Scardella: Certainly, we have a lot of cases where we do expungements for people who weren’t our clients at the time that they were being prosecuted for the offense. We also do a lot of expungements for people that were our clients when they were being prosecuted for the offense, but there is no reason you can’t hire a different attorney to do your expungement.
Common Offenses that are Eligible For Expungement in New Jersey
Interviewer: What would you say are the most common type of cases that can get expunged?
Lauren Scardella: I think that the most common expungements that we do are for people who have had either a pre-trial intervention (PTI) in Superior Court or a conditional discharge in Municipal Court. In those kinds of cases, the client was put on a period of probation and then after they complete the probation their charges are dismissed. Six months later, they’re eligible for an expungement. But we really see everything, from people with assault convictions to shoplifting convictions to people with sex offense convictions. I think more commonly, the people who come to us for an expungement have been convicted of disorderly persons offenses rather than indictable offenses but certainly not exclusively.
Having a Favorable Character Reference Can Benefit the Process of Expungement
Interviewer: Would it help in that case if I had letters from employers to validate my character and something like that?
Lauren Scardella: No. In the majority of cases, the expungement is something which the person is entitled to after the requisite time period has passed, as long as the conviction wasn’t for something that is excluded by the expungement statute. Having character reference letters will make no difference at all because assuming everything is in order, the judge wont’ have the discretion to deny the petition. The only exception to this is if a person is applying for an expungement of an indictable offense after five years rather than ten. In that case, the judge must consider the character of the petitioner and what he or she has done to better themselves since the time of the conviction.