Coughlin & Sumter Bill to Help Those Found Innocent to Rebuild Their Lives & Reputation Approved by Assembly

Legislation Assembly Democrats Craig Coughlin and Shavonda Sumter sponsored to help those found not guilty of charges start to rebuild their lives and reputations was approved 52-21-3 by the full Assembly on Monday.

The bill (A-3684) requires the state Attorney General and county prosecutors to remove from their websites all references and information concerning indictments and prosecutions of persons who were later acquitted of the charges or who had the charges against them dismissed.

“The American justice system is built on the rock solid foundation of innocent-until-proven guilty, but while charges can be dismissed and people acquitted, the Internet is forever,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This requirement won’t solve every problem for a person looking to rebuild their lives and reputation, but it’s a common sense step government can take to make it a bit easier.”

Also, the bill requires the Attorney General and county prosecutors to inform the public that the person who was indicted was acquitted of the charges or had the charges against him dismissed, which is to include posting an updated press release on the websites.

Lastly, they’re required to provide a letter to every person who was indicted or prosecuted and thereafter acquitted or had the charges against him dismissed, certifying that the person was acquitted of, or that there was a dismissal of, all charges arising from the indictment or prosecution.

“The Internet enables things to live on in perpetuity so a person who is later found to be innocent can be haunted by unsubstantiated charges forever,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This change would at least bring a modicum of closure to the innocent to help them move on and clear their name.”

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.