A new law that will take effect in New Jersey in several months will reduce the waiting periods for the expungement of criminal records, which is the process by which a person may have records of arrests, charges, and convictions removed from the public record. Unfortunately, New Jersey law does not allow expungement in driving while intoxicated (DWI) cases. Post-conviction relief (PCR) is the only means of removing a DWI case from one’s driving record. The new law is still good news for New Jersey, and it should be of interest to people charged with a criminal offense in connection with a DWI.
New Jersey law defines “expungement” as “the extraction and isolation of all records on file” with courts, law enforcement agencies, jails, and prisons regarding arrests, trials, convictions, and other dispositions. Records to be expunged include warrants, jail rosters, fingerprints, mugshots, and court dockets. Certain serious criminal offenses are excluded from eligibility for expungement, such as murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, arson, and conspiracy to commit any of the listed offenses. For any other criminal offense, a person may petition for expungement after a specified period of time has elapsed, provided they have no other criminal convictions and meet the statute’s other requirements. For disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses, the waiting period before eligibility for expungement is shorter than for criminal offenses.
Motor vehicle offenses, which include DWI, are expressly excluded from eligibility for expungement. The only method allowed by New Jersey law for removing a DWI from a driving record is the PCR process, by which a person files a petition in the municipal court that handled the DWI case. Rule 7:10-2(c) of the New Jersey Rules of Court sets out the grounds for PCR, most of which relate to circumstances at the time of the conviction. These include a violation of the petitioner’s constitutional rights during conviction proceedings, the court’s lack of jurisdiction to impose a sentence, and the imposition of a sentence that deviates from state law. The rule also allows PCR based on common-law principles and grounds found in habeas corpus cases. In other words, PCR is only available upon a showing of error or impropriety during the original DWI proceeding, while expungement is often available based on good behavior and the passage of time.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed A206 into law on January 19, 2016. It will take effect after 90 days, on April 18. The bill amends multiple sections of the statute governing expungement, found in Title 2C, Part 52 of the New Jersey Revised Statutes. Once the law takes effect, the waiting period for criminal convictions, after which a person may seek expungement, will go from 10 years to five years. The waiting period for disorderly persons offenses and petty disorderly persons offenses will be three years instead of five. People who complete a Drug Court probation program may, upon completion, be eligible for automatic expungement under the new law. As noted earlier, however, the bill leaves untouched the section excluding motor vehicle offenses from eligibility for expungement.
The potential consequences of a New Jersey DWI case can extend beyond jail time and license suspension to have a significant impact on your life. You must take prompt action to protect your rights by consulting with a skilled and experienced DWI attorney. We have dedicated 100% of our practice at Levow DWI Law to advocating for the rights of DWI defendants. Contact us online or at (877) 593-1717 today to schedule a free and confidential consultation.
More Blog Posts:
New Jersey Supreme Court Rules that “Step-Down” Provision in State’s DWI Law Is Not Limited to One Use, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, January 10, 2015
Second or Third DWI Convictions in New Jersey Do Not Always Result in Enhanced Penalties, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, August 1, 2014
New Jersey Law Allows Expungement of Many Criminal Records, but Not in DWI Cases, New Jersey DWI Attorney Blog, July 1, 2014