Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz, which would revise procedures and eligibility for the expungement of criminal records, cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee today.
“For many Americans a criminal conviction creates a life-long handicap, hindering their ability to find a job, rent an apartment or serve in our military. Although these individuals have served their time their criminal record continues to confine them upon release,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “If the goal of our criminal justice system is rehabilitation we must ensure those who have gone through the system are given a genuine second chance when they get out. Expanding the scope of expungement and providing those individuals with a clean slate will remove the barriers holding back so many in our society from reaching their full potential.”
The bill, S-3205, would expand the categories of persons eligible for expungement, and the expungement request could proceed once the individual had met certain time period requirements.
“After someone is convicted of a crime and serves their sentence their criminal history follows them for the rest of their life,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “These collateral consequences have been a driving force of the cycle of poverty for decades, fracturing families and devastating communities of color for far too long. This is an ongoing issue that we will continue to work on but today marks a meaningful step towards giving New Jerseyans a true opportunity to reenter society.”
The bill would also establish a “clean slate” expungement which would allow someone ineligible under the new provisions to apply for expungement. The individual would be eligible ten years from the date they were released, completed probation or completed parole, whichever came last.
Under the bill, those who were still working to pay off fines would be eligible, and the collections would be transferred to the State Treasurer.
The bill would allow for the expungement of controlled dangerous substance convictions of the third or fourth degree. This would allow all convictions for controlled dangerous substance crimes to be treated the same as other crimes and offenses in terms of eligibility for expungement.
The bill would allow for disorderly persons and petty disorderly persons offenses to receive automatic expungement in certain instances.
The bill cleared committee by a vote of 7-2-2.