Cunningham, Ruiz, Sweeney Bill to Expand Expungement Eligibility Clears Committee

Trenton – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate President Steve Sweeney, which would revise procedures and eligibility for the expungement of criminal records, cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today.

“We must reform our criminal justice system and gear it towards rehabilitation, to do that we must ensure those who have gone through the system are given a fair shot when they get out,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Far too many Americans spend the rest of their life fighting the stigma around their conviction, hindering their ability to find a place to live or get a job. Expanding the eligibility for expungement will allow more individuals to remove that stigma and break down those barriers preventing them 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.

“Whenever there is a conversation about the racial disparities among our state’s incarceration rates, we cannot forget that those convictions follow people for the rest of their lives,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex).  “Expungement can be used as a tool to address the inequalities that exist in our criminal justice system. The collateral consequences that come with a criminal conviction have been devastating communities of color, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and fracturing families for much too long. There is more work that needs to be done to reform our criminal justice system and expungement processes, but this legislation is a significant step in the right direction.”

The bill would also establish a “clean slate” expungement which would allow individuals not otherwise eligible for an expungement to file an application after ten years from the date they were released, completed probation or completed parole, whichever came last.

“Expanding our expungement program will not only benefit those with newly expungable offenses but our state as a whole,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “By bringing those with criminal convictions out of the shadows and removing the stigma stinting their growth, the whole state of New Jersey will brighten. The more people able to find occupational and economic success, the better off we are as a state.”

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 was released from committee by a vote of 6-0.