Assembly members Jerry Green (D-Union) and Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Mercer) Monday announced they plan to introduce a bill that would automatically expunge the criminal records of nonviolent drug offenders who have completed the state drug court program.
The bill (A-2829) would grant automatic expungement of records of a criminal conviction to certain individuals who have completed a sentence to a term of special probation, commonly referred to as the drug court program.
To qualify for an expungement, the person cannot have been convicted of any prior crime or have been adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person on more than two prior occasions; the conviction cannot be for any of the crimes that are ineligible for expungement; and the person cannot have had a previous criminal conviction expunged regardless of the lapse of time between the prior expungement and the completion of the sentence of special probation.
The bill would set forth certain procedural requirements for a grant of automatic expungement. No petition would be required and no fee could be charged for a grant of automatic expungement.
Crimes that are not subject to expungement include: criminal homicide, kidnapping, luring or enticing, human trafficking, sexual assault or aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact if the victim is a minor, criminal sexual contact if the victim is a minor and the offender is not the parent of the victim, criminal restraint, false imprisonment, robbery, arson and related offenses, endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct, child pornography, perjury, terrorism, possessing chemical weapons, certain convictions for the sale or possession of drugs.
Additionally, records of conviction for any crime committed by a person holding any public office, position or employment, elective or appointive, under the government of this state or any agency or political subdivision thereof and any conspiracy or attempt to commit such a crime may not be expunged if the crime involved or touched such office, position or employment.
“This bill is about second chances. A criminal record can make it difficult to get a job, an apartment and may even impact financial aid eligibility,” Green said. “The justice system thought these offenders would be better served by treatment rather than prison. This bill continues that support, by giving individuals who have gone through and completed the program the chance to start over and do right without a criminal record holding them back.”
“It’s hard enough to find a job in this economy without a criminal record,” Watson-Coleman said. “Why not give these low-level offenders the opportunity to become productive members of our society? We’re not talking about murderers and rapists; we’re talking about nonviolent drug offenders who have undergone rigorous treatment. Rather than invest in policies that might lead to recidivism and end up costing the state more in incarceration costs, let’s invest in their recovery.”
--TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM