The New Jersey Supreme Court will soon decide whether someone who publicizes an expunged conviction, has committed libel.
The Appellate Division made the decision last December in a case involving a political organization that distributed flyers, publicizing a political opponent’s aide’s conviction for drug possession. The Hudson County Democratic Organization had distributed flyers that stated that a former aide to an opposing candidate had once been convicted of a drug crime. That aide, identified only as GD, worked as an assistant to Senator Brian Stack, Democrat-Hudson, during the 2007 Senate primary. In 1993, GD had been convicted of second-degree possession of drugs with intent to distribute, and had been sentenced to five years in prison. He had the conviction expunged in 2006.
The Hudson County Democratic Organization retained a political consulting firm, which apparently found out about the conviction, and distributed flyers publicizing this. GD filed a lawsuit against the Hudson County Democratic Organization, and several other people. The lawsuit claimed that since his record had been expunged, there was technically no conviction. The defendants insisted that the allegations in the flyers were true, and therefore, they could not be sued. The Appellate Division ruled in favor of the defendants.
The Supreme Court will now decide whether someone who publicizes a conviction that has been expunged, is committing libel. However, there still remain questions about whether the person publicizing the conviction was aware at all that the conviction had been expunged. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will be able to shed some light on this matter too.
The verdict will be watched closely by New Jersey criminal defense lawyers. Once a conviction is expunged and off the records, it must remain off the records for all purposes. One of the main benefits of expungement is that it clears the person's name, and that purpose isn’t served if others are allowed to publicize the expunged conviction.
A conviction and a criminal record can interfere with your employment prospects, and affect other areas of your life. An expungement can seal your arrest records and your conviction. This can be a complicated process, and a New Jersey criminal defense attorney can help determine whether you qualify for expungement.