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Strategies for Obtaining NJ Expungements

New Jersey Expungement Lawyer

Strategies for Obtaining Expungement

While the expungement statute is relatively straightforward, there are opportunities for getting multiple crimes expunged in New Jersey. The chief strategy for avoiding the ineligibility provision for expungement where an individual has multiple indictable convictions is that the related arrests or charges stemmed from a common scheme or crime spree. This approach was endorsed in the NJ case of Application of Fontana, 146 N.J.Super. 262 (App.Div.1976) which illustrates one creative strategy which may be undertaken in cases which initially appear ineligible for expungement.

Application of Patrick FONTANA.
Argued Dec. 13, 1976.
Decided Dec. 30, 1976.

Appeal was taken from order of the Superior Court, Law Division, which denied petition for expungement of record of convictions. The Superior Court, Appellate Division, held that statute providing for expungement of record of a person who received a suspended sentence or a fine of not more than $1,000 for his criminal conviction and who is not convicted of another crime during the ensuing ten years was applicable to the case of a person who, on one night, broke and entered a delicatessen and stole various items and, who, one week later, entered a store, a market, a private dwelling, and a motor vehicle, and stole items from within where the pleas of guilty were all entered on the same day.
Reversed and remanded.

West Headnotes
KeyCite Notes

110 Criminal Law
110XXVIII Criminal Records
110k1226 In General
110k1226(3) Expungement or Correction; Effect of Acquittal or Dismissal
110k1226(3.1) k. In General. Most Cited Cases
(Formerly 110k1226(3), 110k1222)

Statute providing that where a suspended sentence or a fine of not more than $1,000 has been imposed upon a criminal conviction and no subsequent conviction has been entered against the person for ten years, the person may petition to have his record expunged was applicable to defendant who on one night broke and entered a delicatessen and stole beer and soda and, one week later, entered other buildings and stole items from within as the crimes which formed the basis of the convictions all involved the same participants and were committed within a comparatively short time and the pleas of guilty were all entered on the same day so that the convictions could be considered a "conviction" for purposes of the statute. N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28.

[2] KeyCite Notes

110 Criminal Law
110XXVIII Criminal Records
110k1226 In General
110k1226(3) Expungement or Correction; Effect of Acquittal or Dismissal
110k1226(3.1) k. In General. Most Cited Cases
(Formerly 110k1226(3), 110k1222)

Expungement of record of criminal conviction of person who receives suspended sentence or fine of not more than $1,000 and against whom no subsequent conviction has been entered for ten years is discretionary. N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28.

**935 *265 Eric A. Summerville, Newark, for appellant Fontana.

Arnold Cohen, Deputy Atty. Gen., Division of Criminal Justice, for respondent State of N.J. (William F. Hyland, Atty. Gen. attorney; William Welaj, Deputy Atty. Gen., of counsel).

Before Judges BISCHOFF, MORGAN and E. GAULKIN.

*266 PER CURIAM.
Patrick Fontana (hereafter defendant) appeals from the denial of his application for expungement of his record of convictions pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28.

In 1962 defendant was charged in six separate indictments with five counts of breaking and entering with intent to steal, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:94-1, and five counts of larceny, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2A:119-2.

The charges were based on a series of events which started on February 27, 1962, when defendant and two others (one a juvenile) broke and entered a delicatessen and stole 20 cases of beer and one case of soda. About one week later they started to consume the beer and, on the night of March 7 and during the early morning hours of March 8, they entered a television service and supply store, a motor vehicle, a **936 market and a private dwelling, and stole a hi-fi stereo, motor vehicle fender skirts, cigars, cigarettes and some money.

Defendant pleaded guilty to all counts of the six indictments and was sentenced to concurrent suspended sentences, placed on probation for two years and fined $500. Thirteen years later defendant applied for expungement of his record of convictions pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28, which provided in pertinent part at the time the application was made [FN1]:

/N1. Amendments to the statute, effective March 3, 1976, are not relevant to the disposition of this appeal.

In all cases wherein a criminal conviction has been entered against any person whereon sentence was suspended, or a fine imposed of not more than $1000 and no subsequent conviction has been entered against such person, it shall be lawful after the lapse of ten years from the date of such conviction for the person so convicted to present a duly verified petition to the Court, wherein such conviction was entered, setting forth all the facts in the matter and praying for the relief provided in this section.

In ruling on the application for expungement the trial judge stated that he 'would like to help this man because *267 he was in court * * * and he impressed me.' However, he said he felt that he had no discretion since the statute spoke in terms of 'a conviction' and he was convinced defendant had six convictions and, accordingly, was not eligible for the benefit of the statute.

The only issue presented by this appeal is whether defendant's conviction of the crimes charged in the six indictments can be considered 'a conviction' so as to qualify him for expungement under N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28.

[1] We hold that under the circumstances of this case the statute is applicable and defendant is eligible for expungement relief. The crimes which form the basis of the convictions all involved the same participants and were committed within a comparatively short time. The judgments of conviction on the pleas of guilty were all entered on the same day. The criminal conduct can be viewed as akin to a 'one night spree' which has generally received special consideration in sentencing, State v. McBride, 127 N.J.Super. 399, 317 A.2d 727 (App.Div.1974), aff'd 66 N.J. 577, 334 A.2d 27 (1975), and the convictions as one conviction within the intent and meaning of the statute. Cf. State v. McCall, 14 N.J. 538, 103 A.2d 376 (1954); State v. Johnson, 109 N.J.Super. 69, 262 A.2d 238 (App.Div.1970).

The statute is specifically aimed at providing an incentive for rehabilitation of a person convicted of crime, and its purpose will be advanced by a construction which authorizes expungement under the circumstances here present.

[2] Expungement is discretionary under the statute. The trial judge here indicated that the only reason he was not granting the relief requested was his conclusion that the multiple judgments of conviction prevented it. Since we disagree with that construction of the statute, there is no longer any bar to granting the application.

The order denying expungement is reversed and the matter remanded for the entry of an appropriate order of expungement.
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The criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of John F. Marshall represent New Jersey adult and juvenile clients from offices in Shrewsbury, Cranford, Toms River, Jersey City and New Brunswick. We provide prompt and convenient client service to people in such communities as Newark, Plainfield, Freehold, Eatontown, East Brunswick, Edison, Woodbridge, Westfield, Clark, Rahway, Piscataway, Sayreville, Elizabeth, Middletown, Asbury Park, Long Branch, Jackson, Lakewood, Point Pleasant, Edison, Old Bridge, Aberdeen, Linden, Belmar, Eatontown, Hazlet, Holmdel, Ocean, Sea Bright, Hoboken, Weehawken, Seaside Park, Seaside Heights, Tinton Falls, Wall, Brick, Dover, Jackson, and other locations in Monmouth County, Middlesex County, Union County, Ocean County, Burlington County, Mercer County, Essex County, Hudson County and Morris County.

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