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Partial Expungement Case Law Study in New Jersey

In the Matter of the Expungement of the Criminal Record of M.D.Z.
Superior Court of New Jersey
Dec 14, 1995

Holding: The Superior Court of New Jersey affirmed the trial court’s order to allow for the expungement of defendant’s charges related to his 1992 arrest, but excluding any expungement to all charges related to his domestic violence charges and matrimonial proceedings.

Why This Case is Important: N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1a allows a person to expunge records of offenses within the criminal justice system. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2a explains that the scope of the statute will only apply to crimes under the laws of the state. Offenses that are not traditionally considered crimes but carry consequences that are subject to expungement such as matrimonial matters, have been provided for by the Legislature. Since there has been an effort by the Legislature to distinguish these non-traditional offenses, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1a will only apply to criminal charges and nothing else.

Facts of This Case: On June 9, 1992, defendant was arrested and charged with making a terroristic threat, unlawful possession of an assault firearm and unlawful possession of several large capacity ammunitions. Defendant’s spouse filed a domestic violence complaint on the same date and followed with a matrimonial matter a week later. In September of that same year, defendant’s spouse withdrew the domestic violence complaint, matrimonial matter and requested the State to withdraw the terroristic threat complaint. Defendant also agreed with the State that if he surrendered his unregistered rifle, the State would return his two registered pistols and dismiss the unlawful possession complaint.

In June 1994, defendant requested the court to expunge all records related to his criminal complaints, matrimonial matter and the domestic violence matter. The State agreed to nly allow the criminal complaints to be expunged but not the domestic violence matter or the matrimonial matter. The trial court agreed with the State and only allowed the expungement of defendant’s criminal complaints, explaining that the statute that allows for the expungement of criminal charges does not extend to matters involving domestic violence proceedings or matrimonial matters. Defendant appealed this order.

The Superior Court of New Jersey agreed with the trial court’s decision. The Court reasoned that the expungement statute does not express any design to deal with domestic violence or matrimonial proceedings. The language in the statute specifically states that it is intended to only apply to criminal charges. Therefore, when a statute is clear and unambiguous as it is in this case, the Court will not delve further in figuring out the Legislature’s intent.

Key Language: N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1a only applies to criminal charges and no other charges outside that category, even those charges which may have arose from the criminal charges. Any additional charges stemming from the criminal charges such as a domestic violence complaint or a matrimonial matter will not be subject to expungement.

Expert Advise: “In New Jersey, a request to expunge criminal records under N.J.S.A. 2C:52-1a will only apply to criminal charges. Non-criminal charges arising from such matters will not be subject to expungement under the statute.” Attorney Mathew Higbee.

To read about more cases that help to define record clearing relief laws click here.

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New Jersey Record Expungement and Record Clearing

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