Mark M. Cheser 35 Years of Criminal Defense Experience
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What's the difference between dismissal and expungement?

A criminal record can have far-reaching consequences, even long after your case has been finalized. Criminal records may affect the employment and business opportunities available to you. Similarly, your chances of accessing government benefits, student loans and housing or participating in civic activities may also be limited. When talking about criminal records, it is important to understand the difference between dismissal and expungement. 

Dismissed case

A dismissed case is a dropped case. This occurs when the prosecution doesn't have sufficient evidence to convict you. Your case can also be dismissed if you have completed a relevant treatment program or have completed court-ordered community service. Even after your case has been dismissed, it will still show on your criminal record, although with the indication that the case was dismissed and that you were not convicted of the criminal offense. This means that someone else could learn about the arrest through an official background check.

Expunged case

Expungement erases New Jersey official records. Expungement does not completely destroy a criminal record, but makes it inaccessible in most situations. If your case is expunged, that means that official computer records and official paper records, including fingerprints and photographs, are removed and placed into a safe. In response to any inquiries about your criminal record, officials must say "no such records exist." Official records sent by New Jersey to Federal data bases--for example, FBI fingerprint codis-- are not removed. Furthermore, law enforcement, the courts and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) can still access your criminal record should you face future charges. In other words, if you face immigration issues, an expungement will not preclude you from deportation.

The limits of expungement

Expungement can keep employers, landlords and others from discovering your criminal record through background checks of official records. Furthermore, if asked during a job or housing application process, you are allowed to say that you have never been arrested or convicted. An expungement does not, however, remove any information from private postings that may appear online. You can contact private servers to request that information about your record be removed, but they do not have to comply with your request, and may charge you if they do.

If you have questions about dismissal or expungement, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help provide clarity and put your situation in perspective.

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