TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, Senate President Steve Sweeney, Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Raymond Lesniak, to help New Jersey residents who have a criminal record were signed into law by the governor today.
The three laws will prohibit employment discrimination based upon an expunged criminal record; accelerate expungements and increase the number of convictions that can be expunged; and reduce the waiting period to expunge an entire juvenile record.
“A minor criminal offense should not lead to a lifetime of punishment. These laws are about removing barriers for residents and helping them to overcome the obstacles that exist in finding employment, taking care of their families and setting their lives on the right path,” said Senator Cunningham. “These laws are a great step to providing offenders with the second chance they deserve.”
“We need to give people the chance to move forward, not let a past decision hold them back,” said Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem) sponsor of S-3306 & S-3307. “This is about putting people back to work and helping them improve their lives. I commend Senator Cunningham for her continuous efforts to help those who have a criminal past take steps to clear their name and get a new start, which is what these laws will do.”
“This law will better ensure that a past conviction won’t prohibit residents from obtaining employment opportunities,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex), sponsor of S-3306. “It will help to create a pathway for people to reclaim their lives and become contributing members of society.”
“Unfortunately we live in a world where one mistake can mean the difference between whether or not someone is able to obtain employment, a loan or even a car. These new laws will remove the barriers that may be holding our residents back from a bright future,”said Senator Lesniak (D-Union), sponsor of S-3307 & S-3308.
An expungement is the removal and isolation of all records on file within any court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement agency, criminal justice agency, or juvenile justice agency concerning a person’s apprehension, arrest, detention, trial or disposition of an offense within the criminal or juvenile justice system. Unless otherwise provided by law, if an order for expungement is granted, the adult arrest, record of law enforcement taking a person into custody as a juvenile, conviction, adjudication of delinquency, disposition, and any related proceedings are considered not to have occurred.
S-3306 strengthens New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act, also known as “Ban the Box,” sponsored by Senator Cunningham and signed into law by Governor Christie in August 2014. S-3306 would prevent those with current and expunged criminal records from being discriminated against at the early stages of employment pursuits.The law would provide that, in addition to an oral or written inquiry, an employer would also be prohibited from making an online inquiry about the candidate’s criminal record.
S- 3307 reforms procedures for expunging criminal records by:
• Allowing a petitioner to expunge up to four, instead of three, offenses or multiple offenses that occurred within a short timeframe, if the petitioner has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent offense;
• Reducing the expungement eligibility waiting period from ten years to six years, following the latest of any conviction, payment of fine and completion of probation, parole or prison sentence;
• Further reducing the expungement eligibility waiting period if satisfaction of a fine or restitution is the petitioner’s only remaining barrier and the court finds that the expungement is in the public’s interest; and
• Aligning expungement and sentencing statutes, allowing expungement for possession of marijuana with the intent to sell up to one ounce, which is the threshold for a fourth-degree crime.
S-3308 decreases from five to three years the waiting period to expunge an entire juvenile record, maintaining all other requirements and provisions.