STELIOS STOUPAKIS and ROBERT SPAWN report on a recent decision from the Supreme Court of New Jersey.
The Supreme Court of New Jersey reversed the Appellate Division’s ruling on three consolidated appeals, and, in doing so, established greater expungement opportunities for drug court graduates involved with third and fourth degree drug sale offenses. Three individuals applied for expungement under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14 (m) upon their completion of drug court rehabilitation. Each had criminal records with various prior convictions and arrests, and all had successfully graduated the drug court program on May 17, 2016. Additionally, each was employed full-time and was current on payment of all fines, costs, etc. While a trial court granted the applications, on appeal the Appellate Division vacated the expungement orders explaining that, in accordance with the statute, trial courts may expunge third and fourth degree convictions of drug sale offenses only when the court finds that the expungement is parallel with the public’s interest (the applicant having the burden of satisfying this public interest test).
The Supreme Court reversed finding that while certain drug court graduates are not eligible for expungement if specifically barred by the statute, others are not specifically barred as to third and fourth degree drug sale convictions, and were allowed for public-interest evaluation. The Court also determined that the public-interest analysis is different when handling the applications of drug court graduates because those applicants “are entitled to a rebuttable presumption that expungement is consistent with the public interest.” Indeed, contrary to other expungement applicants, drug court graduates have gone through a strenuous supervision program, during which judges, prosecutors and other members of the drug court team become extremely familiar with the participants’ backgrounds. As a result of the ruling, expungement is now easier for successful drug court graduates.
Please contact Stelios Stoupakis or Robert B. Spawn if you have any questions or need assistance in connection with this subject.