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Efforts to Make Expungement Easier Derailed by Antiquated Computer Systems

The New Jersey state assembly has been considering the issue of criminal record expungement since at least 2005, but has taken no action because the state's computer systems would make changes difficult to put in place.

The big difference between the proposed law and the current law is that people convicted of many minor offenses would have their records expunged after a pre-determined period of time. Currently, individuals must petition to have their records expunged, and only a limited number of criminal offenses can be considered for expungement. Not only would the expungement be automatic, but the length of time a person must wait is less under the proposed measure.

And, the current $30.00 fee would be eliminated.

Serious offenses, such as criminal homicide, kidnapping, luring, endangering the welfare of a child and sexual assault, will continue to be ineligible for expunction and remain on the ex-convict's criminal record.

Because most petitions for expungement are granted, making people go through a complex process is unnecessary, according to the bill's sponsor. The goal is to make it easier to people to move forward with their lives after serving their sentences.

Unfortunately, a spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts has said that 21st century technology is not yet in place and that implementing such a system would e very difficult. Dan Phillps said, "We are a paper-based system, and we're drowning ...."

Source: NorthJersey.com, "Assembly panel discusses easing expunging of criminal records", by Matt Friedman, Nov. 28, 2011.

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