New Jersey Expungement Law Amendment Allows For Early Expungement
A recent amendment to New Jersey’s expungment statute allows for an expungement petition to be filed five-year after sentencing. The expungement statute N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a) was amended effective March 13, 2012 to provide:
A petition may be filed and presented, and the court may grant an expungement pursuant to this section when:
(a) at least five years has expired from the date of his conviction, payment of fine, satisfactory completion of probation or parole or release from incarceration, whichever is later; and
(b) the person has not been convicted of a crime, disorderly persons offense, or petty disorderly persons offense since the time of the conviction and the court finds that expungement is in the public interest, giving due consideration to the nature of the offense and the applicant’s character and conduct since conviction.
A recent Atlantic County case addressed the new expungement law where the prosecutor objected to an early expungement arguing that it was not in the public interest.
The petitioner pled guilty to one count of distribution of a controlled dangerous substance (Ecstasy). The sentence was a three-year probationary term, conditioned upon completion of 45 days in the Atlantic County jail. The petitioner successfully completed all of the terms and conditions of his probation on September 13, 2002. On March 18, 2010 he sought to expunge his record. He petitioned the Atlantic County Superior Court-Law Division pursuant to the amendment to the expungement statute permitting a petition to be filed less than ten years following completion of probation. The State opposed the motion and argued that an earlier expungement was not in the public’s interest because of the seriousness of the offense involving a sale of CDS.
An Atlantic County Superior Court Judge found that the petitioner satisfied the first two requirements for relief under the expungement statute. At least five years had passed since he had completed probation and he had not been convicted of any other offense since the conviction. However, the Court found that it was not in the public’s interest to expunge the conviction, despite the petitioner’s steps toward repairing his good name and reputation. The expungement petition was denied.
This Atlantic County expungement case does recognize the new change in the expungement law that allows a person to apply for an expungement after five years following satisfactory completion of probation or release from incarceration. The prosecutor’s office evaluates the expungement application based on the specific offenses in each case.