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Important answers to commonly asked legal questions from New Jersey residents

Look at the frequently asked questions (FAQs) about debt relief, foreclosures, bankruptcy filing, asset protection, interest discharge or credit rehabilitation answered by Gloucester county bankruptcy attorney Steve Richardson. See how traffic court lawyer Steve Richardson answers FAQs about arrests for DWI/DUI, speeding, reckless driving, driving while suspended, and other traffic violations.

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  • Do I Qualify for an Expungement in New Jersey?

    Any kind of criminal record here in New Jersey can hold you back when it comes to living a better life, including employment. If you have ever faced these questions on a job application, you know what I mean:

    • Have you ever been arrested?
    • Have you ever been convicted of a crime?

    Don't you wish you could just make that conviction and/or arrest go away? Wouldn't you love to be able to answer "no" to these questions?

    An Expungement Helps You Answer "No"

    Well, that is what expungements are for here in New Jersey, but if you have done any online research on the topic, your head is probably swimming from all of the complex rules and conditions! How do you know if you even qualify? Is it even worth trying?

    That is why I created this quiz to help you navigate all of the rules to see if an expungement here in New Jersey can help you. Just answer the questions to the right and see how you do.

    Bear in mind, however, that every case is different, and an online quiz can only go so far. If the quiz says no, you should still consult with an attorney and talk to him or her about where the quiz went off the rails.

    Don't Wait; Take Action!

    If you live in the Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, or Cumberland county area, have decided that you need an expungement, and are ready to take action, then take the quiz to the right and see what it says.

    If you want more information on expungements, then check out the links below. After you have taken the quiz, then call my office to schedule an appointment!

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  • Can I Remove (Expunge) My New Jersey Criminal Conviction?

    Yes, you can, under certain circumstances. A criminal conviction in New Jersey can be a serious stain on your life and prevent you from getting a job or other pursuits in life. That is why there is a provision to expunge (wipe out) the conviction if you meet the criteria. There are some exceptions, convictions you can't wipe out, but it is worth looking into.

    What Are the Requirements?

    As I said, there are crimes that can be wiped out under certain circumstances. This is done through a "petition for expungement" if you meet the following requirements:

    • It has been at least ten years from the date of your conviction, or the date on which the sentence was completed, whichever is later;
    • An accelerated expungement may be available if at least 5 years have passed, you have not been convicted of any subsequent offense, and the court finds that an expungement is in the public interest given your character and conduct;
    • You do not have more than one criminal conviction;
    • You  have not had more than two disorderly or petty disorderly persons offense convictions.
    • You have not had a previous criminal or disorderly persons expungement
    • There are no pending criminal, disorderly persons, or petty disorderly persons prosecutions
    • There are no pending lawsuits involving the crime where NJ is a party

    Also, if you have a criminal and disorderly persons conviction, only the criminal conviction can be expunged.

    Expungements are great, but there are limits. You can have one of these wiped out.

    So What Do I Do?

    Petitions for expungement can be very helpful, but they are not something you should try on your own. If you live in southern New Jersey, and are looking to "clean up your act" and get the skeletons out of your closet, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site for a free consultation in my Woodbury office to discuss your options.

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  • Can I get a deferment of my NJ CLASS student loans during medical internship or residency?

    Getting a medical degree is becoming more and more expensive, and can run up crushing student loan debt. But it doesn't stop after four years of medical school! There's your internship and residency as well, which can really put a crimp in your ability to pay your CLASS student loan's from New Jersey's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA).

    Wouldn't it be great if you could defer payment until after your internship and/or residency has been completed? Luckily, you can! Medical students can get a deferment while an intern or resident, but there are some conditions that need to be met.

    • You must be currently participating in an eligible internship or residency program of supervised training that is required by a State licensing agency prior to certification for professional practice or service.
    • You must provide certification from the appropriate State licensing agency attesting to the necessity of the internship or residency.
    • You must provide certification from the organization with which the internship or residency is being undertaken which specifies:
      • Acceptance of the borrower into the internship or residency program; and
      • Anticipated beginning and completion dates of the program.

    Just remember that a deferment or forbearance is just a short term solution to your situation, a bandage on the wound. You will need to find a more permanent solution at some point.

    Looking for a long term solution? Then check out the information in my free book, Paying for Your Classes with a CLASS Loan: A Survival Guide to HESAA. It will tell you about all of your options and which one might work for you!

    If you live in the southern New Jersey area and need more personalized assistance with your situation, then feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 to schedule an appointment or contact me by e-mail. You need to act now; the longer you wait, the fewer options are available!

  • Can I get a deferment on my NJ CLASS student loan from HESAA if I am temporarily disabled?

    Making payments on your New Jersey CLASS student loan can be tough enough, but what if you are temporarily disabled due to something like an auto accident or a work-related accident? What if , as a result, you can't work for a while?

    Luckily, you can get a deferment if you are unable to work and earn money or attend school during a period needed to recover from injury or illness. To qualify, you must submit a request and provide HESAA with a statement from a physician, who is a doctor of medicine or osteopathy, and is legally authorized to practice, certifying that you are temporarily totally disabled.

    Once HESAA receives your request for a deferment and all required documentation, it will notify you regarding the deferment's authorization. But there are things to bear in mind:

    • The deferment begins on the date your qualifying status is certified to begin and ends on the date your qualifying status is certified to end.
    • Maximum allowable time periods for all deferments except full-time and half-time study at an eligible institution shall not exceed six months for loans with a 10-year repayment term, 18 months for loans with a 15-year repayment term, 24 months for loans with a 20-year repayment term, 30 months for loans with a 25-year repayment term and 36 months for loans with a 30-year repayment term for an unemployment deferment, and for each of the remaining deferments, as established by the Authority.
    • Deferments for NJCLASS loans with a 10-year repayment term are limited to unemployment deferments.

    Deferments are, at best, temporary solutions to your student loan repayment problem. You are going to need something more permanent if you are going to survive long term.

    Better Solutions

    If you want a long term solution, then check out the information in my free book, Paying for Your Classes with a CLASS Loan: A Survival Guide to HESAA. It will tell you about all of your options and which one might work for you!

    If you live in the southern New Jersey area and need more personalized assistance with your situation, then feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 to schedule an appointment or contact me by e-mail. You need to act now; the longer you wait, the fewer options are available!

  • Can I get a deferment or forbearance on my NJ CLASS student loan from HESAA if I am unemployed?

    If you have a CLASS loan from New Jersey's Higher Education Student Assistance Authority (HESAA), it can be very difficult if you don't have a job upon graduation or become unemployed later in the repayment period. But can you get a break from making payments while jobless? Sometimes!

    Deferments

    If you are unemployed, you can seek a deferment, but there are conditions:

    • You must be currently unemployed and conscientiously seeking but unable to find full-time employment.
    • You may be granted up to a six-month deferment upon your initial request if you provide acceptable proof of eligibility for unemployment benefits or a signed written statement describing your conscientious search for full-time employment. The statement must include:
      • Proof that at least three attempts were made to gain employment;
      • The names, addresses and phone numbers of the possible employers contacted;
      • The name of the contact person at each possible employer; and
      • A certification of registration with a public or private employment agency.
    • For all requests beyond the initial request, you must provide a signed written statement describing your conscientious search for full-time employment during the preceding deferment period. The statement must include the documentation, contact information and certification specified above.
    • In order to remain eligible for the deferment, you can't restrict your job search to specific fields, positions, or salaries.

    Financial Hardship Forbearances

    What about forbearances? Well, HESAA may also, at its discretion, grant you periods of forbearance. It will only be granted if both the borrower and co-borrower qualify for the forbearance. It may be granted for situations including, but not limited to, economic hardship (as defined for federal student loans). But again, there are conditions.

    • The maximum allowable time period for economic hardship forbearance cannot exceed six months for loans with a 10-year repayment term, 18 months for loans with a 15-year repayment term, 24 months for loans with a 20-year repayment term, 30 months for loans with a 25-year repayment term and 36 months for loans with a 30-year repayment term.
    • In granting a forbearance, HESAA permits a temporary cessation of principal payments and temporarily permits payments of interest only, or a temporary cessation of both principal and interest payments. Interest continues to accrue during all forbearance periods.

    More Information

    Looking for a more long term solution to your CLASS loans? Then check out the information in my free book, Paying for Your Classes with a CLASS Loan: A Survival Guide to HESAA. It will tell you about all of your options and which one might work for you!

    If you live in the southern New Jersey area and need more personalized assistance with your situation, then feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 to schedule an appointment or contact me by e-mail. You need to act now; the longer you wait, the fewer options are available!

  • Are There NJ Crimes That Cannot Be Expunged?

    People often have a past that they are not proud of, but are holding them back from getting a decent job and rebuilding their lives. New Jersey understand this and provides a procedure whereby a record of arrests and convictions can be wiped out as if they did not exist. This is called an expungement. If you succeed in obtaining one and are later asked if you have ever been arrested, or convicted of a crime, you can truthfully say Yes.

    The Exceptions to the Rule

    But there are exceptions to this procedure. Not all crimes can be expunged. You can get rid of arrests and convictions of local ordinance violations, disorderly or petty disorderly person offenses, and certain indictable offenses. But there are exceptions. They are:

    • Criminal Homicide, except death by auto
    • Kidnapping
    • Luring or Enticing Human Trafficking
    • Aggravated Sexual Assault
    • Aggravated Criminal Sexual Contact
      • If the victim is a minor, Criminal Sexual Contact
      • If the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim
    • Criminal Restraint or False Imprisonment
    • Robbery
    • Arson and Related Offenses
    • Endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child
    • Endangering the welfare of a child
    • Causing or permitting a child to engage in a prohibited sexual act
    • Selling or manufacturing child pornography
    • Perjury or False Swearing
    • Knowingly promoting the prostitution of the actors child
    • Terrorism
    • Producing or Possessing Chemical Weapons, Biological Agents or Nuclear or Radiological Devices
    • Conspiracies or attempts to commit such crimes.

    Drug-Related Crimes

    Crimes involving the sale or distribution of drugs (or possession with intent to sell) cannot be expunged, except:

    • Marijuana, where the total quantity sold, distributed or possessed with intent to sell was 25 grams or less;
    • Hashish, where the total quantity sold, distributed or possessed with intent to sell was five grams or less; or
    • Any controlled dangerous substance provided that the conviction is of the third or fourth degree, where the court finds that expungement is consistent with the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the petitioners character and conduct since conviction.

    Crimes Committed in Public Office

    Also, if you hold any public office, position or employment, elective or appointive, under the government of this State or any agency or political subdivision thereof and commit a crime or are involved in any conspiracy or attempt to commit such a crime, and that crime involved or touched such office, position or employment. they cannot be expunged.

    I Can Help You Start Fresh!

    If you are looking to expunge some arrests and/or convictions in your past, and you live in the Gloucester County, New Jersey area, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment for a free consultation in my Woodbury office. Don’t let your past hold you back from a better future!

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  • Why Should I File Bankruptcy If I Am Judgment Proof?

    This is a question I get a lot from someone here in New Jersey who is in such bad financial shape that there is nothing that their creditors can do to them. They are, for all intents and purposes, "judgment proof." This is because:

    • They either have no income, or that income is from a source that cannot be garnished, such as Social Security benefits, unemployment benefits, a pension, child support, and the like.
    • They have less than $1,000 in their bank account, or that money is from sources such as those listed above.
    • They do not own real estate, such as a home.
    • They do not own any assets of any significant value, such as a car.

    As such, they see no need for bankruptcy because they do not perceive any benefit to it. They are wrong.

    Being Judgment Proof Is the Perfect Time to File!

    Yes, that's right; now is the best time to do it, and as such, there is value in filing bankruptcy when you are judgment proof! Few people, hopefully, are going to be judgment proof forever. They find employment, buy a home, and turn their lives around. In short, things get better.

    When that happens, do you want to have some creditor take money out of your paycheck, freeze your bank account so that the mortgage payment bounces, or seize your car? No way!

    Think about it. Right now there is little or no risk to filing bankruptcy; you don't own anything! There is no home to lose to the trustee, no income to go to creditors in monthly payments, and no big tax refund to be taken away. Filing bankruptcy when you are judgment proof is insurance against better times. Get rid of your debt now, so that it won't weigh you down when things get better.

    Let Me Help You Through It!

    If you live in Gloucester County, New Jersey or the surrounding area, and are considering filing bankruptcy, please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site for a free consultation in my Woodbury office to discuss your case.

    If you have more questions about bankruptcy, then download my free book,Top Questions People Ask About Filing Bankruptcy in New Jersey.

    If you are looking for more information on how bankruptcy might help you with your divorce, then you should download my free book, Top Questions Divorcing Couples Ask About NJ Bankruptcy.

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  • Can I Use the Money from a Graduate PLUS Loan for Housing?

    Yes, you can. Whether it is for undergraduate or graduate school, people borrow money to cover the cost of attendance at that school, and those costs can include many different things. A U.S. Department of Education publication, Your Federal Student Loans: Learn the Basics and Manage Your Debt states that,

    "you may use the money you receive only to pay for education expenses at the school that awarded your loan. Education expenses include such school charges as tuition, room and board, fees, books, supplies, equipment, dependent child care expenses, transportation, and rental or purchase of a personal computer."

    For additional information, you should talk to someone at the financial aid office at your school.

    Many people think that for graduate school, housing is not included. This is not true. Sometimes the best graduate or professional school is in another state, and you will need housing and accommodations while classes are in session.

    As part of your fiunancial aid plan, you should carefully consider all of the costs of attendance at that school to be sure you have enough funds to cover them. As you can see from the quote above, many different things can be considered as a part of the cost, and you don't want to miss one.

    More Information

    If you are looking for more information about federal financial aid for college, then download my free book, Applying for Federal Financial Aid: The Definitive Guide for Students and Parents.

    For more information about what happens after you graduate, get my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.

    You can also access the latest news on student loans, get answers to Frequently Asked Questions, and read articles in my Library. Continue to educate yourself as you go through the process of making smart decisions about college financing!

  • Can I Be Arrested in NJ For Not Paying a Debt?

    No, you can’t. There is no debtor’s prison here in New Jersey where you end up if you do not pay a bill. Collection is a civil, not criminal, matter and people that end up in debt do not end up behind bars.

    Unless . . .

    There are two exceptions to this. The first is where you pay for something by check, that check bounces, and you do not make good on it within 10 days of a demand to do so by the creditor. Even then, the tendering of the check in payment must be simultaneous with the purchase of the good or services. It does not apply if it happens when the check fails to clear in payment of a pre-existing debt, like a credit card balance.

    The second is where you fail to respond to a New Jersey Information Subpoena. Here, you were sent a court document demanding that you reveal your assets, like bank accounts and jobs. If you do not respond, you are in contempt of court and can be arrested for that. Even then, upon arrest, the judge will just insist that you fill out the form and only throw you in jail if it is necessary to force you to do so.

    Debt Collectors Lie

    The sad thing is that debt collectors use this threat all the time to scare people into paying. If someone says this to you, they are lying! This is not only because of what I have just said, but also because collection agencies can’t send information subpoenas. They are only sent by law firms that have obtained a judgment against you by bringing a law suit!

    The key is to know your rights and stand up to the debt collector bullies. They lie, and when they do, they can be sued for violating your rights. It is called the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and it is a powerful shield. Don’t let them push you around.

    I Can Help

    If you live in the Gloucester County, New Jersey, area, and you are being threatened by debt collectors, I may be able to help. Please feel free to call me at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment to come in. I have represented creditors for many years and am familiar with the collection industry and how it ticks. Put my experience to work for you!

    Want more information on how to fight back with your creditors? Then download my free book, The Biggest Secrets Your Creditors Don't Want You to Know. Become empowered and protect your rights!

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  • What Is the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) Plan for Federal Student Loans?

    Effective on December 16, 2015, the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan helps borrowers of federal student loans with a third income driven repayment option. In effect, it extends the benefits of the PAYE plan, but does have some downsides.

    The PAYE plan modified the Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan by shortening the repayment period from 25 to 20 years and lowering the cap on monthly payments from 25 years to 20 years. In addition, you would never pay more per month than a 10 year fixed repayment plan.

    But this deal is not available to everyone. Older borrowers are out of luck. In order to qualify, you must not have any outstanding federal student loan balances as of October 1, 2007, and have taken distribution on a student loan after October 1, 2011. In essence, this plan was for newer borrowers, those in school at the time the program was released.

    How is REPAYE Different Than PAYE?

    What REPAYE does is make PAYE available to everyone by removing these restrictions. But there are some downsides that need to be considered, as there are some differences between PAYE and REPAYE. They are:

    • There is no cap on the monthly payment equal to the payment on a 10 year fixed repayment plan; it will always be 10% of your disposable income. So if your income rises to the point where you can pay more than that amount, you will be required to do so.
    • If you are married, your spouse’s income must be included in the calculations. Under IBR and PAYE, married couples can file separate tax returns, and borrowers can use only their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Under PAYE, you cannot.
    • The 20 year repayment period in REPAYE only applies to undergraduate loans; loans for professional schools (e.g. law or medicine) or graduate schools have a 25 year repayment period. Under PAYE (and IBR for loans taken out after July 1, 2014) the repayment period is 20 years for all of them.

    The REPAYE plan can be helpful to some people, but not for everyone. Anyone considering it should consult with a student loan professional to see if it is right for them, as every situation is different.

    I Can Help

    If you live in southern New Jersey and are looking for a more affordable repayment plan, please feel free to call my office at 856-432-4113 or contact me through this site to schedule an appointment in my Woodbury office to discuss your case.

    If you would like more information about student loans, you can dowload my free book, I Graduated; Now What? A Guide to Dealing with Your Student Loans.

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