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Cunningham, Ruiz Bill to Expand Expungement Eligibility Clears Committee

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Cunningham and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz which would revise procedures and eligibility for the expungement of criminal records cleared the Senate Budget and Appropriations 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,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Expanding the scope of expungement will remove these barriers for many individuals deserving of a second chance, providing them with a clean slate after proving that have been rehabilitated.”

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 has been convicted of a crime and served their sentence their criminal history follows them for the rest of their life,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This has been a driving force of the cycle of poverty for decades, fracturing families and negatively impacting communities of color for far too long. It is time that we give New Jerseyans a true second chance after proving they have been rehabilitated.”

The bill would also establish a “clean slate” expungement which would allow someone ineligible under the above provisions, who has been convicted of multiple crimes or disorderly persons offenses to apply for expungement.

The individual would be eligible ten years from the date they were released, completed probation or 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 delete a provision in current law that barred expungement of any controlled dangerous substance where the conviction is of the third or fourth degree. The effect of deleting this provision is that for purposes of expungement, convictions for controlled dangerous substance crimes would be treated the same as other crimes and offenses in terms of eligibility.

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 9-3-1 and next heads to the full Senate for further consideration.