State v. Zemak
Superior Court of New Jersey
April 15, 1997
Holding: The Superior Court of New Jersey held that the expungement statute of the state does not apply to the police department as an employer in the same way it does to the police department as a law enforcement entity. The defendant’s request to have his criminal record expunged was granted, but the request to remove defendant’s personnel records from the police department is denied.
Why This Case is Important: The New Jersey expungement statute allows for the expungement of all records kept by the court, detention or correctional facility, law enforcement or criminal justice agency used for purposes within the criminal justice system. The statute specifically applies to criminal records kept within the law enforcement agencies and nothing beyond that. Therefore, the expungement statute does not affect records and reports kept by non-law enforcement agencies such as employers.
Facts of This Case: Defendant had been employed by the Secaucus Police Department since 1965. In this case, defendant is seeking to expunge all records relating to his charge of theft and possession of stolen property occurring in 1975, which had since been dismissed. Neither the defendant nor the police department object to the court’s order allowing the criminal records to be expunged. However, the issue in this case is if the personnel records of the defendant concerning his crimes should also be erased pursuant to the expungement statute. The police department argues that it is within the capacity as an employer to keep personnel records on its employees and that the expungement statute does apply to those records.
The Superior Court of New Jersey agreed with the police department. It stated that the expungement statute does not require the removal of personnel records from any employment files. The expungement statute only extends to law enforcement agencies and does not reach anything beyond that, such as employment agencies and their records. Furthermore, the police department is keeping the personnel records in their capacity as an employer in order to ensure public safety by maintaining accurate performance records of all its employees. The need to have the personnel records therefore outweigh the need to have them erased. Therefore, the request to have the personnel records removed is denied.
Key Language: The expungement statute only applies to criminal records kept by law enforcement agencies for use within the criminal justice system. The statute does not allow for the removal of records kept by an employer concerning the criminal activities.
Expert Advise: : “In New Jersey, an expungement of a person’s criminal records will only remove those records for use within the criminal justice system. It will prevent the law enforcement agencies from viewing such files in the future. However, the statute does not reach beyond the law enforcement agencies. Therefore, any files kept by employers concerning the criminal activities related to the records cannot be expunged through the statute.” -Attorney Mathew Higbee.
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