In New Jersey, a negative background check on a job or apartment application could mean rejection. It could also prevent an employee from being promoted. If you have an old shoplifting charge on your criminal record, recent changes to expungement law in New Jersey may allow you to erase the incident.

Erasing your record

Expungement, in a legal sense, is the removal of a crime from a person’s record. If both the crime and the defendant are eligible for expungement, the defendant may file a petition for an expungement order with a New Jersey Superior Court. If approved, the existence of the arrest, conviction or related legal proceeding is sealed. Only a judicial branch, law enforcement or correction agency would be able to gain access to record of the crime. Shoplifting is one of the most common crimes expunged off criminal records.

Shoplifting charges can range from severe to minor depending on several factors, such as the value of the items taken and the number of offenses committed. The shoplifting charge you received and how long ago you received it affects your eligibility to expunge the crime.

Wait times required to expunge shoplifting charges

Recent changes to New Jersey expungement law have decreased the amount of time a defendant must wait before being eligible for expungement. Changes have also increased the number of crimes that can be expunged over a defendant’s lifetime.

Here are the most common shoplifting charges along with the corresponding wait time they require to be expunged:

  • You may immediately file for an expungement if you were arrested, but not convicted
  • If charges against you were dismissed after completing a supervisory treatment program, you must wait six months after the dismissal
  • A juvenile offense wait period is three years from the incident
  • A municipal ordinance wait period is two years from the incident
  • A disorderly persons offense (misdemeanor) wait period can be three years if you are eligible for “early pathway” expungement. Otherwise, the wait period is five years

Most shoplifting cases involve stolen merchandise worth less than $200, resulting in misdemeanor charges. If you are a first-time offender, your prosecutor may downgrade the offense to a violation of a municipal ordinance.

Maximum amount of crimes a defendant can expunge

Those who have not been convicted of a felony may expunge 4 misdemeanor convictions. Those who have been convicted of a felony may only expunge 3 misdemeanor convictions. Limits for expunging other charges, such as felonies, are subject to eligibility and the nature of the offense.

If you are considering filing a petition to expunge a shoplifting crime from your record, contact a criminal defense a lawyer to help review your case. A hearing date is usually set within 35 and 60 days of filing and the total process can take anywhere between three and six months.