Expunged Records and Child Abuse Charges (Part 2)

by | Aug 30, 2023 | Blog, Criminal Law, Monmouth County, New Jersey, Ocean County

The Appellate Division continued: Arlo argues N.J.S.A. 2C:52-14, which does not apply to an expungement pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6, provides: A petition for expungement filed pursuant to this chapter shall be denied when . . . d. The arrest or conviction sought to be expunged is, at the time of hearing, the subject matter of civil litigation between the petitioner or his legal representative and the State, any governmental entity thereof or any State agency and the representatives or employees of any such body.

Arlo maintains that “if the Legislature intended a similar exception to apply to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6, the Legislature would have included this exception. However, the Legislature created an automatic expungement with no exceptions.” Contrary to Arlo’s argument, there is an exception to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-6,and that exception is found in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-19, the catch-all provision, which empowers a court to allow certain parties access to expunged records under fact-specific circumstances. See G.D., (finding that criminal-conviction information, truthfully reported, was civilly actionable when the conviction was the subject of an expungement order); State v. J.R.S., (App. Div. 2008) (“Even after the entry of a judgment of expungement, expunged records remain available for certain limited purposes, including to satisfy discovery obligations in a civil suit.”). As our Supreme Court recognized in G.D., the expungement statute does not transmute a once-true fact into a falsehood. It does not require the excision of records from the historical archives of newspapers or bound volumes of reported decisions or a personal diary. It cannot banish memories. . . . Although our expungement statute generally permits a person whose record has been expunged to misrepresent his past, it does not alter the metaphysical truth of his past, nor does it impose a regime of silence on those who know the truth.

The trial court did not err in granting the Division access to the expunged records. N.J.S.A. 2C:52-19 authorized the court to do so.

A counter point is that our criminal code makes it a disorderly persons offense to knowingly disclose the existence of an expunged record.  A related point in A.G.’s favor is that his case resulted in a complete dismissal. Only the arrest record of an unproven charge was expunged.