Drug Court Expungements and Out-of-State DUIs (Part 1)

by | Nov 13, 2019 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

On April 23, 2019, Gloucester County Law Division Judge Eastlack decided the case of In the Matter of the Expungement of J.S. The principal issue under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14 is whether a drug court graduate’s expungement application could be barred based on an out-of-state DUI conviction that occurred during his term of special probation.

Judge Eastlack held in relevant part as follows: The Supreme Court’s recent decision in T.B. determined that there is a rebuttable presumption in favor of expungement. Utilizing the principles of statutory construction, “it is well established that in construing a statutory provision, courts must seek to fulfill the statutory objective ‘so far as the terms of the legislation and proper consideration of the interests of those subject to it will fairly permit.'” State v. Haliski (1995). See also State v. Gill (1966).

The expungement provision within N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14 bars a successful drug court graduate’s petition for expungement if “convicted of any crime, or adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person, during the term of special probation.” N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m)(1). A conviction in New Jersey of driving while intoxicated is not a crime, disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense as defined by the statutes of this state. N.J.S.A. 2C:1-4.

While the DLC does require that New Jersey give full faith and credit to out of state motor vehicle violations, including convictions for DWI, where the statutes are substantially similar to New Jersey’s, the public policy behind the DLC was to encourage reciprocal recognition of motor vehicle violations and promote compliance with regulations relating to the operation of motor vehicles in the participating states. The purpose was not to elevate New Jersey’s classification of a DWI conviction from a motor vehicle violation to the equivalent of an indictable criminal offense, disorderly persons or petty disorderly persons offense.

The drug court graduate likely received a short county jail sentence as a sanction for the violation of special probation relating to the DUI conviction. A possible alternative sanction would involve community service.