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Cunningham, Ruiz, Sweeney Introduce New Bill to Expand Expungement Eligibility

Trenton – New legislation to expand eligibility for the expungement of criminal records will be introduced today by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate President Steve Sweeney, offering a criminal justice reform plan that would improve on the proposal sent to the Legislature by Governor Phil Murphy.

“We are offering a comprehensive expungement plan that builds on the proposal offered by Governor Murphy so that we can make reforms that will produce more fairness in the criminal justice system,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “I want to commend the Governor for the constructive ideas he incorporated into his conditional veto. We are improving on his plan to make sure the expungement program is more expansive and covers more people.”

Senator Sweeney said that the Senate is not rejecting the Governor’s proposal, that Democratic Senators welcome most of the ideas in the conditional veto, and that discussions with the Governor will continue to reach a full agreement that would preferably include the revisions contained in the new bill.

“If expungement is a good step toward responsible citizenship, then we should be broadening the opportunity for people to expunge their records, rejoin the work force and be fully accepted in society,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Expanding the eligibility for expungement will allow more people to remove that stigma and break down the barriers preventing them from reaching their full potential. That is a principle I know has motivated the Governor.”

Senator Cunningham stressed that this is important legislation that should be done well and that the legislative process is not being delayed.

“We have maintained a constructive dialogue with the Governor as we work to develop an effective expungement program,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This is an important and shared priority for all of us. We want to   put in place the most effective reforms to reduce the racial disparities that have been adversely impacting communities of color for far too long.”

The bill would make various reforms to expungement eligibility and procedures, some focused on the treatment of various marijuana offenses, and others applicable to any expungement application.

The measure would also establish a “clean slate” expungement process to render convictions and related records inaccessible after a 10-year period. This would allow individuals not otherwise eligible for an expungement to file an application ten years from the date they are released, completed probation or completed parole, whichever came last.

The proposal would reform the application process for all types of expungement to make it more accessible. 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.