A state legislative committee recently recommended three interlinked bills that would make it easier for persons with minor criminal records to apply for expungement, criminal attorneys in New Jersey report. The three bills were approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and are awaiting a decision from the full Assembly before moving forward.
A criminal record of any kind, no matter what the charges, can often prevent a person from living a normal life post-conviction. Although New Jersey has taken steps to ban employers from asking about a criminal record on paper applications in the first round of the hiring process (the “Ban the Box” initiative), many people find that having a criminal record can hold them back, even if the crimes were youthful indiscretions or minor crimes from several years earlier that have no bearing on their lives today.
The Bills in Question
A206 is the result of combining six individual bills with similar language and purpose. It:
- Reduces the statutory waiting time for most convictions for non-first-degree indictable crimes from ten to five years
- Reduces the waiting time for expungement of disorderly persons convictions from three to five years
- Grants automatic expungement to anyone who graduates from the New Jersey Drug Court program. Upon graduation, a defendant can have all prior criminal arrests, detentions, convictions and proceedings expunged from record. The defendant must not have been convicted of another crime while enrolled in the program
- Requires the judiciary to expunge any information about a person’s arrest, detainment, trial, etc., if that person is acquitted, or if the charges are dismissed. These expungements are to be processed without the person having to pay the new $75 filing fee
- Requires the expungement of all criminal records for anyone who has been a victim of identity theft
- Creates an Expungement Study Commission
- Provides that the Commission’s job will be to study whether the expungement process should be automatic, without the defendant having to file a petition with the Superior Court, and whether the right to expungement should be granted to defendants with multiple convictions
- Notes that all findings are to be reported to the legislature within 18 months
The passage of these bills has been supported by the New Jersey American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). ACLU senior staff attorney Alexander Shalom said that “expungement is based on a theory that people can change,” and it is “morally and ethically right.” Earlier expungement for criminal records will also reduce the burden of cost for taxpayers in the state because the number of people who receive public assistance as a result of unemployment will be lower.
According to Committee Chairman John McKeon, D-Morris-Essex, these bills represent a collaborative effort from interested parties, and their “purpose is for repatriation, gainful employment, and for doing things that a record would preclude one from doing.” Criminal lawyers in New Jersey hope that the bills’ passage will usher in a new era of opportunity for those who have abandoned their former bad habits and lifestyles.
At Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA, we can help defendants in New Jersey expunge their criminal records. To get started on clearing your future, and getting rid of the criminal stigma, contact us today.