Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gordon Johnson, Joseph Lagana and Benjie Wimberly to reform New Jersey’s criminal record expungement laws received final legislative approval on Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
The bill (A-1662) would authorize the state to order the deletion, sealing, labeling or correction of certain records involving victims of identity theft. Under the bill, a victim may submit a petition for relief free of charge.
“Having to deal with the repercussions of a criminal record that resulted from an identity theft case adds insult to injury for victims,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “This allows victims to repair the damage caused by providing for the sealing of criminal records that were obtained erroneously.”
Under the bill, a person who reasonably believes that he or she is the victim of identity theft would be permitted to petition the court where a charge is pending or where the conviction was entered to clear his or her name when:
· The perpetrator of the identity theft was arrested for, cited for or convicted of a crime, offense or violation of the law under the victim’s identity;
· A complaint for a crime, offense or violation was filed against the perpetrator in the victim’s name; or
· The victim’s identity mistakenly has been associated with a record of conviction.
Upon determining that the petitioner is a victim of identity theft, the court would order that the victim’s name and personal information contained in the publicly accessible records of relevant courts, law enforcement agencies, correctional institutions and administrative agencies be deleted, sealed, labeled as not reflective of the victim’s identity or corrected by inserting the name of the perpetrator in the records.
“The damage caused by identity theft can be extensive. Add to that a criminal record and rebuilding becomes even more difficult,” said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This ensures that an individual who has been victimized can avoid further damage to his name and livelihood.”
Under the legislation, the court would be required to distribute the order or other appropriate notice to the prosecutor and administrative agencies to which a record of conviction may have been transmitted. The prosecutor would distribute the order or notice to the relevant law enforcement agencies and correctional institutions. The court also would provide the victim with a copy of the order or other appropriate documentation to aid in the resolution of any disabilities that may result from an arrest, charge or conviction.
Upon a petitioner’s request, the chief administrator of the Motor Vehicle Commission would be required to provide an identity theft victim with a certified corrected driver history. Any insurance company that charged a policyholder an additional premium based on assessed insurance points would be required to refund the monies upon receipt of notification of the court’s order.
“Identity theft can have serious consequences for a victim. A criminal record is just one of them,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This bill allows people whose identities were stolen to have their records sealed as they work to put their lives back together.”
The bill, which passed unanimously in the Assembly earlier this year, also received unanimous approval from the Senate.