This would ensure that defendants would receive prompt drug treatment rather than having to resolve often petty disorderly persons offenses prior to being sentenced into Drug Court. The goal of the Drug Court is to evaluate the need for a client’s treatment and get them into it as soon as possible. In fact, there was a memorandum issued by Glenn A. Grant, J.A.D., Administrative Director of the Courts, advising municipal court judges to lift detainers on municipal court defendants who were about to be sent to inpatient treatment programs from the Drug Court. Again, this was intended so that a defendant would not have to sit in the county jail awaiting transport to the municipal courts and delaying much needed treatment. Some of the municipal courts would refuse to pick up the defendants and drop their detainer but only after the defendant sat unnecessarily. Judge Grant’s Memorandum was directly in keeping with the intent of the Legislature.
The court also agrees with defendant that denying this form of expungement under these circumstances would be fundamentally unfair. When defendant pleaded and was sentenced to special probation, the expungement provision in the Drug Court statute did not exist. It was not possible at that time for defendant or his counsel to foresee the future consequences of getting sentenced into special probation without resolving pending court matters. It is more likely that neither the State nor defendant thought it would have any future application considering the fact that under normal probation, defendants are allowed to resolve pending matters without concern that it will result in a VOP. With this being said, had a defendant graduated before the expungement statute went into effect but then was charged and convicted of a new offense, he or she would be bound and not be entitled to an expungement. Thus, the concept of fundamental fairness and the related caselaw also provide support for the Law Division’s well-reasoned opinion.
For the above reasons, defendant’s petition for expungement under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m) is granted. However, note that pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m)(4), if defendant is hereafter convicted of any crime, the full record of arrests and convictions may be restored to public access and no future expungement shall be granted. Expungement orders under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m) should include a provision stating such to clearly indicate to the New Jersey State Police and other involved parties that this is a Drug Court expungement.