Outgoing Gov. Chris Christie (R) has signed a three-bill package to reform expungement laws, whose primary sponsor was state Senator Sandra Cunningham (D-31), into law after nearly a year of ongoing discussions.
“Expungement has to be an option that’s available to those who have earned it and who deserve it, and this legislation will allow people to get that,” Christie said during a press conference yesterday, posting a short clip on his YouTube page (embedded above).
“In the end I was really happy, although I was a little disappointed because of all the other things we had to get done in June, that we didn’t get this done in June.”
Back in March 2016 at the 3rd annual Prisoner Re-entry Conference in Jersey City, Christie revealed during a sitdown with former Gov. Jim McGreevey (D) that expungement laws for violent reformers could change by June.
The following month, Christie told Hudson County View that he had a 90-minute meeting with Cunningham to discuss how to move the expungement reform bills forward.
Now, eight months later, the approved legislation allows offenders to expunge four, instead of three offenses, that occurred during a short timeframe – as long as the petition has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent offense.
Furthermore, the expungement eligibility period has been reduced from 10 years to six years for adults, and scaled back from five years to three years for juveniles.
“A minor criminal offense should not lead to a lifetime of punishment. These laws are
about removing barriers for residents and helping them to overcome the obstacles that exist in finding employment, taking care of their families and setting their lives on the right path,” Cunningham said in a statement.
“These laws are a great step to providing offenders with the second chance they deserve.”
Assemblyman Nick Chiaravalloti (D-31), one of the Assembly sponsors of the bill, also applauded the new legislation.
“The sooner someone’s criminal record is expunged, the sooner he or she can get a fresh
start and make positive contributions to society,” added Chiaravalloti. “Expungement reform is a good and necessary change for New Jersey.”
Christie also noted yesterday that he was thrilled to sign this bill into law just days before Christmas.
“The fact is that I think signing a bill like this five days before Christmas is a really, really good thing to do. It reminds people that God is forgiving, and that God made us in his image, and that we need to be forgiving, too,” Christie said.
“That we need to give those who have truly earned forgiveness the chance to be forgiven.”