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27 Nov 23

How a Criminal Record Can Affect Your Life in New Jersey

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Last Updated on: 6th December 2023, 10:57 pm

How a Criminal Record Can Turn Your Life Upside Down in New Jersey

Having a criminal record—whether it’s an arrest, charge, or conviction—can seriously mess up your life in New Jersey. Even if you just got a minor citation or misdemeanor, it can make things way harder when it comes to jobs, housing, relationships, and more. Let’s break down all the ways a criminal record can flip your world upside down if you live in the Garden State.

Employment Problems

One of the biggest issues with having any kind of criminal record is how hard it makes it to find work. Tons of employers now run background checks before hiring, so even an arrest that got dismissed can pop up and make them think twice. Certain jobs like teaching, banking, security, etc. are pretty much off the table if you’ve got a record. It sucks, but it’s reality.

And in NJ, these background checks are perfectly legal for employers to do. The only exception is if they find out about arrests or convictions that got expunged—more on that later. But anything else from your past is fair game, , and they can refuse to hire you because of it. It’s totally unfair and messed up, but whatcha gonna do? Fight the power, man.

Housing Discrimination

Another big consequence of having a criminal record in New Jersey is it can prevent you from renting an apartment or house. Landlords often run background checks too before approving tenants. And if they see you’ve got drug charges, assaults, theft crimes, or whatever else on your record, a lot of times they’ll just say no way.

Technically, landlords can’t have a blanket rule of refusing anyone with a criminal record. But they can claim they denied you for other reasons, like bad credit or income or whatever. It basically gives them an easy out if they don’t want to deal with renting to someone with a record, especially for stuff like violence, sex offenses, or selling drugs. It blows, but private landlords have a lot of leeway on tenant selection in NJ.

Relationship Troubles

You better believe a criminal record can cause major drama in your relationships too. Whether it’s a new girlfriend finding out through a Google search or an old friend cutting ties because you got busted, it puts stress on a lot of bonds. Heck, even family members might judge you or get uncomfortable about it.

And for parents with a record, it sadly often means limited custody or visitation with your kids. Family court judges have a lot of discretion, but generally convictions for violence, abuse, sex crimes, or drug sales make it really tough to get unsupervised time with your children if the other parent objects. It’s beyond devastating for many moms and dads just trying to be part of their kid’s lives. But the system can be pretty unforgiving.

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Immigration Consequences

If you’re not a U.S. citizen, getting arrested or convicted in New Jersey can have disastrous effects on your immigration status too. Even a petty shoplifting charge could trigger deportation proceedings depending on your situation. Violent offenses, drug crimes, and felonies are almost sure to bring the heat from ICE and put your residency at risk.

It’s complicated and depends on tons of factors, but bottom line – any criminal record makes immigration a minefield. Speak to an attorney ASAP if you face charges and aren’t a citizen because you may have defenses against removal. But don’t stick your head in the sand because that can backfire badly. Be proactive, know your rights, and fight to stay if you’ve built a life here.

Financial Hits

Oh, and expect a criminal record to crush you financially too. Legal fees, fines, and restitution can drain your bank account real quick, especially if you do jail time and lose work. Child support or alimony payments may also get jacked up if your income drops due to unemployment.

Plus, a record tanks your credit score and makes it harder to get loans, credit cards, or a mortgage. And good luck trying to rent an apartment or house with bad credit on top of your criminal background. It’s a vicious cycle that keeps you stuck in financial limbo, barely scraping by. Talk about adding insult to injury.

Barriers to Education

Trying to better your situation by getting a college degree? Don’t count on it if you’ve got a record. Tons of higher ed institutions still require criminal history disclosures on admissions applications. And while they aren’t supposed to have blanket bans for non-violent offenses, they get away with rejecting applicants if they claim it’s for “safety reasons.”

So in reality, schools can deny you admission or on-campus housing due to all kinds of petty crimes just because they don’t want to deal with anyone who has a record. Some even advertise as “felony-friendly” because they’ll make exceptions for certain convictions if you jump through a million hoops. It’s supremely messed up for those just trying to turn their lives around.

Difficulties Traveling

Planning to jet off on a vacation outside the good ole U.S. of A anytime soon? You may want to rethink those plans if you’ve got a criminal record. Many countries—including Canada and Mexico, our neighbors!—often deny entry to foreign visitors with drug convictions, felonies, or other offenses on their rap sheet.

It varies based on the country and type of crime, but basically expect extra scrutiny at customs and a much higher chance of getting turned away at the border. Some don’t let people in at all with a record, while others may make you apply for a special visa or waiver in advance. Either way, international travel just got a whole lot more complicated thanks to that criminal history.

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Loss of Rights

And lastly, a criminal record means forfeiting certain rights and privileges that law-abiding citizens enjoy. For example, people with felony convictions lose their gun ownership and voting rights. Some driving privileges also go out the window for certain motor vehicle crimes. And anyone with a record probably won’t qualify to adopt kids or be a foster parent either.

Plus, thanks to the internet, your criminal record gets blasted all over public databases these days too. So good luck trying to keep your past mistakes private when any nosey neighbor can search your name and instantly discover your dirty laundry. No wonder it’s so tough for people with records to get back on their feet when their reputation takes such a permanent hit.

Getting an Expungement

As you can see, even a minor brush with the law can have disastrous effects on someone’s quality of life in New Jersey. It closes doors, strains relationships, tanks your finances, and often leaves you feeling hopeless.

Luckily, the state does allow some criminal records to eventually be expunged, which clears them off your public rap sheet. It’s a long process with strict eligibility rules, but when successful, an expungement erases the record as if you were never arrested or convicted in most cases.

This helps remove huge barriers to jobs, housing, schooling, and more caused by old charges coming back to haunt you. Speak to an attorney to see if you qualify for an expungement and finally get out from under the cloud of your criminal record. It could give you your life back.

Don’t Go It Alone

As you navigate the fallout from a criminal record, remember—you don’t have to go it alone. Connect with support groups, therapy, job readiness programs, legal aid services, and other resources. The system may be stacked against you, but taking advantage of every opportunity and not giving up hope is key.

You can also read more about the specific consequences of different charges and how defense attorneys fight them by clicking these links: assault crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, theft and robbery, weapons charges, restraining orders, and expungements. Knowledge is power, so arm yourself as you work to move forward.

You got this! And with the right help, a criminal record doesn’t have to ruin everything.