In today's culture of criminalizing everyone, this bill adds relief to those who in another time and in most cases would otherwise not have been labeled a criminal. The reduction of waiting times for indictable crimes to 5 years and for DP's to 3 years is a good step towards allowing people to obtain and keep employment and lead meaningful lives. Expungements should not and are not intended for career criminals. Even with this reduction in waiting times, courts should be more vigilant in guarding against allowing a label of "criminal” to be placed on anyone’s head. The Administrative Office of the Courts and the Attorney General’s office have been fixated on building their fiefdoms and burdening the taxpayers all the while increasing their head count. It is time to get back to a better time where your neighbors weren't considered undesirable criminal elements. Everyone should note that NJ is a rarity as it allows for expungements. The Federal government does not! But then again, New Jersey would consider a loud sneeze to be a crime.
NJ Lawmakers Push to Ease Expungement
A committee of the New Jersey Legislature has recommended passage of a trio of bills aimed at easing the path to expungement for those with minor criminal records.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee passed the three bills without opposition on Dec. 11, and they now go to the full Assembly for further action. If the bills pass the Assembly, they must still be approved by the Senate and signed by Gov. Chris Christie in order to be enacted.
Committee Chairman John McKeon, D-Morris-Essex, said the bills were a compilation of behind-the-scenes work by the sponsors and parties with an interest in the topic.
"The purpose is for repatriation, gainful employment and for doing things that a record would preclude one from doing," said McKeon, of Hardin, Kundla, McKeon & Poletto in Springfield, N.J.
Alexander Shalom, the senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, urged the committee to pass the bills.
Making expungement easier, he said, is "morally and ethically right."
"Expungement is based on a theory that people can change," Shalom said, adding that if expungement makes it easier for people with a criminal history to gain employment, that eases the financial burden on the state, since it will lower the number of people getting public assistance.
The first bill, A206, is actually an amalgam of six bills.
Under the bill, the statutory waiting period for most convictions for non-first-degree indictable crimes would be reduced from 10 to five years. The waiting time for expungement of convictions for disorderly persons offenses would be reduced from five years to three years.
McKeon said social scientists have determined that for indictable crimes, the time from arrest to conviction or plea averages about seven years.
"There's no great purpose in extending [the waiting time] another five years," he said. "People are either going to be recidivists or they're going to keep their noses clean."
The bill also would grant automatic expungement to those who graduate from the state's Drug Court program. Upon a defendant's graduation, a judge would be allowed to order the expungement of all records relating to all prior criminal arrests, detentions, convictions and proceedings, as long as the defendant was convicted of another crime during his or her participation in the program.
Lastly, the bill would require the judiciary to expunge all information about a person's arrest, indictment or trial if that person is acquitted or if the charges are dismissed. Those expugnements could be made without the person being required to pay the judiciary's newly approved $75 filing fee.
The primary sponsors are Assemblymen Jerry Green, D-Union, and Reed Gusciora, D-Mercer.
The second bill, A1662, would require the expungement of all criminal records for those who are the victims of identity theft.
"This ensures that an individual who has been victimized can avoid further damage to his name and livelihood," said one of the sponsors, Assemblyman Joseph Lagana, D-Bergen, who is with Chasan Leyner & Lamparello in Secaucus, N.J.
The last bill, A1815, would create an Expungement Study Commission.
The commission's job would be to study whether expungement should be automatic, without the need for a petition to the Superior Court, and whether the right to expungement should be extended to those with multiple convictions.
The commission would be required to report its findings to the Legislature and the governor within 18 months.
"A criminal record can haunt you for life," said one of the bill's sponsors, Assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, D-Passaic, said in a statement. "If we want to help people break the cycle, it makes sense to look into whether expungement should be extended to multiple offenses, and whether it is feasible to automatically expunge convictions after the relevant waiting period are over."