TRENTON – Senator Ronald L. Rice today said that it is important to help rehabilitated offenders seal and expunge their criminal records so that they can become more productive members of society.
“Everyone makes mistakes, but we try to learn from those mistakes and move past them,” said Senator Rice, D-Essex. “It’s important that we find ways to ease re-entry and reduce the recidivism rate by modifying the sealing and expungement statutes in our justice system, so that we can promote re-integration and employability. By giving former offenders a hand in putting their past behind them and moving forward as changed members of society, we are improving the quality of life for everyone in this State.”
Senator Rice originally proposed the measure, S-771, which would change the criteria for the expungement of criminal records. The bill would authorize the courts to use their own discretion to potentially reduce the timeframe for seeking an expungement or to reduce the fines associated with a crime.
“The originally proposed bill, S-771, would do a lot to help rehabilitated offenders stay out of trouble, but the new bill I am drafting will go even farther by providing sealing and expungement incentives,” said Senator Rice. “This legislation would help them build and maintain confidence in themselves as they try to move forward. However, the bill would only keep record sealed if the ex offenders stay completely out of trouble.”
Senator Rice stated that, “The importance of my soon-to-be introduced measure is to create an intermediate step of record sealing between normal availability which may harm a former offender when they attempt to find employment, and complete expungement.”
Senator Rice stated that his new bill would not only address the need to expunge records, but also allow for records to be closed after a shorter period of time as long as the former offender remains out of trouble.
Senator Rice noted that current law allows for expungement after 10 years if no new offenses occur. The new bill would keep the same 10 year wait for expungement but also would allow for the sealing of records after 5 years from the date of conviction, payment of fines, satisfactory completion of probation or whichever is later.
The bill is expected to be introduced next month and is expected to be referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.