NEW JERSEY SUPREME COURT ISSUES RULING LIMITING EXPUNGEMENTS

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on two expungement requests relating to multiple offenses in a decision that will likely make expunging a person's criminal record more difficult and exacerbate the potential consequences of a criminal conviction on multiple offenses during a single trial. The court ruled that a person may only successfully seek expungement where the conviction was a result of criminal offenses that "occurred as part of a single, uninterrupted criminal event." 

The New Jersey statute providing for expungement of a criminal record allows for a person convicted of a crime to have his or her criminal records expunged, but only where the petitioner "has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent crime." Expungement is an important step for many people, as expunging a past criminal record can be very helpful in applying for jobs, promotions, security clearances, and any other process that might involve a criminal background check or disclosure of a criminal record.

The court heard petitions by two men who separately had criminal convictions. The first was a 34-year old health care worker now living in Florida and seeking a nursing career, who had pled guilty to two misdemeanor drug charges in New Jersey in 2001 for selling marijuana to an undercover police officer while a student at Kean College. The court found that, because the two criminal offenses occurred five days apart from one another, they could not be considered a single crime for the purposes of the expungement statute, meaning that the petitioner had been convicted of prior or subsequent crimes, despite the fact that he was convicted of both crimes at the same criminal trial, and therefore he was ineligible for expungement.

The second petitioner was a 52-year old New Jersey businessman, who in 1999 offered campaign contributions to a mayor and two town council members in exchange for actions to select the businessman's company for a contract. These offers were made in a series of phone calls over two days. He pled guilty to four offenses related to those illegal actions. The trial court hearing his petition granted his expungement petition on the grounds that the four offenses related to a single crime, but an appellate court reversed on the grounds that the underlying criminal acts took place over two different days. The New Jersey Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court, finding that each phone call to a city official constituted a separate criminal act, and therefore because he was guilty of prior criminal acts, he was not eligible for expungement under New Jersey's statute.

Even prior to the court's tightening of the expungement rules, expungement was a complex process in New Jersey, and this ruling makes expunging one criminal's record all the more challenging. Expungement, however, continues to be an extremely important step for many people in advancing their professional and personal lives, and your future is worth working with an experienced attorney to guide you through the expungement process so that you can better your chances of clearing your record and moving on with your life with a clean slate.

Contact the Morristown expungement attorneys at Smith & Doran to discuss your case, at 973-292-0016.

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