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McKeon Bill to Prevent Anyone Convicted of a Violent Crime from Assuming a New Name Advances

An Assembly panel on Monday advanced legislation sponsored by Assemblyman John F. McKeon that would require a person applying for a legal name change to undergo a criminal history record background check in order to prevent anyone convicted of a violent crime from assuming a new name.

“This bill is intended to prevent individuals with violent criminal convictions from assuming new identities,” said McKeon (D-Essex/Morris). “At the same time, it will also help ensure that victims of violent crimes are notified when their perpetrators make application for a change of name.”

Under the bill (A-2376), upon application to the court for the authority to assume another name, an applicant would be required to submit to a criminal history record background check and also provide the results of a judgment search, including a sworn affidavit stating that there are no pending lawsuits, judgments, or bankruptcy proceedings.

The bill specifies that applicants are responsible for the cost of the check, but provides an exception for any applicant who has instituted an action to assume another name due to the applicant’s status as the victim of a violent crime.

A “violent crime” would be defined as any crime in which the actor causes death or serious bodily injury or uses or threatens the immediate use of a deadly weapon. The term also would include aggravated sexual assault or sexual assault in which the actor uses or threatens to use physical force.

The bill would prohibit the court from authorizing an applicant who has been convicted of a violent crime to assume another name, unless the applicant establishes that the request is for religious or gender identity reasons. The bill would further require that the victim or the victim’s immediate family be notified when an applicant who has been convicted of violent crime makes application for a name change.

The provisions of the bill would not apply to routine name changes when an individual gets married or divorced.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly. It would take effect four months following enactment.