In New Jersey the criminal record expungement process can be very expensive and very lengthy even for those who are victims of identity theft and did not commit any crimes. There is a push among several lawmakers to expedite the process for victims and allow their records to be immediately sealed for free if they can prove they are not guilty of the offenses on their records.

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"Sometimes you don't realize this happened until you apply for a job and they say, 'Hey, you were arrested some time ago,' and the person's sitting there going, 'That's not me,' and then they have to go through the whole process of trying to get it straightened out," said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Teaneck).

Legislation (A-1662), co-sponsored by Johnson would require that criminal records related to an identity theft case be sealed. It has already been approved by the full assembly. An identical bill (S-2856) sponsored by State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck) was approved Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Victims of identity theft should be able to go to a judge, explain the case to them, show that they're a victim and then the state has the responsibility to clear this person's name. You should be allowed to apply for an expungement of your records through a court once you show that you are a victim of identity theft," Johnson said.

Under the bill, a victim of identity theft could petition the court where the charge is pending or where the conviction was entered for a judicial determination of the victim's factual innocence, when:

  • The perpetrator of the identity theft was arrested for, cited for, or convicted of a crime, offense, or violation of law under the victim's identity;
  • A complaint for a crime, offense, or violation has been filed against the perpetrator in the victim's name;
  • The victim's identity has been mistakenly associated with a record of conviction.

All records related to driving offenses not actually committed by the identity theft victims would also have to be sealed.

"The damage caused by identity theft can be extensive. Add to that a criminal record and rebuilding becomes even more difficult," bill co-sponsor Joe Lagana (D-Paramus) said in a press release statement. "This ensures that an individual who has been victimized can avoid further damage to his name and livelihood."