New Jersey Supreme Court Issues Pivotal Warning on Expungement Requests

What is the current status of expungement laws in New Jersey?

Expungement of a criminal record is a somewhat complex process that can reap innumerable benefits for the former criminal defendant. In very limited circumstances, a former offender can have a minor criminal or juvenile matter permanently segregated from his or her record, thereby allowing for greater employment and/or academic opportunities. More specifically, an expungement allows for the segregation of records relating to arrests, charges and convictions. However, in light of a recent ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, expungements may now be more difficult to obtain for those who were involved in a repetitive or multi-component criminal event.

In a 5-2 decision reached in August, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that an expungement is only possible in a situation involving a “single, uninterrupted” criminal event. The underlying cases involved two consolidated appeals, one involving the sale of marijuana to an undercover officer, and one involving a local developer offering a series of bribes to a town council. In the marijuana case, the defendant sold drugs on two separate occasions over a five-day period, whereas the developer engaged in bribery through several phone calls in a 48-hour period.

After both petitioners were denied their request for expungement, they appealed their cases through the New Jersey court system. At the heart of the matter was the language of the state expungement statute, which limits the expungement process to those who have not been convicted of any prior or subsequent crime. In considering this language, the court concluded that a defendant who was charged with multiple criminal counts – even if arising out of a single actual event – were precluded from eligibility for expungement. More specifically, expungement is only available for a defendant who has committed just one, singular criminal act, “not one or more crimes closely related in circumstances or in time.”

If you are facing a recent criminal charge, our team of professionals can help you possibly overcome the burdens of a criminal record. To make an appointment for a consultation, call Sitzler & Sitzler today: 609-267-1101.