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Non-Violent Offenders Could Have Records Expunged Under New Legislation

Today, the Assembly Judiciary panel advanced two separate measures that would allow the automatic expungement of criminal records of nonviolent offenders in certain situations.

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The first bill sponsored by Assembly members Reed Gusciora, Jerry Green and Albert Coutinho, would automatically expunge a person’s criminal record under certain circumstances. The second bill sponsored by Assembly members Jerry Green and Bonnie Watson Coleman, would automatically expunge the criminal record of nonviolent drug offenders who have completed New Jersey’s drug court program.

“A criminal record can be an extended prison sentence. A person who has paid his or her debt to society should have the opportunity to make a better life for themselves,” says Gusciora. “We’re not talking about hardened criminals, but people who, given the resources, could become productive members of society. Making the expungement process simpler in these specific cases would help facilitate their transition and help avoid a relapse into criminal activity.”

Green explains, “Job prospects today are scarce as it is. Having a criminal record makes the prospects of finding employment that much more difficult. These individuals have served their time. Many of them will return to the communities where they lived prior to incarceration. It makes sense to give them the opportunity to become contributing members of society not just for their sake, but for the sake of the communities they are rejoining.”

The first bill would eliminate the requirement that a petition must be filed by the person seeking the expungement. Instead, an expungement would be automatically provided to the person once the requisite amount of time has lapsed since the conviction, provided the conviction appears in a criminal history record maintained by the state police. In addition to authorizing automatic expungement, the bill reduces the statutory waiting periods for the expungement of records for various crimes.

The second measure would grant automatic expungement to certain individuals who have completed a sentence to a term of special probation, commonly referred to as the drug court program.

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