New Jersey State Police Sued Over Delays Processing Expungements

October 30, 2023

New Jersey’s Office of the Public Defender recently filed a class action lawsuit against the New Jersey State Police Department. This lawsuit accuses the state police of unacceptable delays in processing expungements for criminal offenses. These delays allegedly caused a loss of employment, housing, volunteering opportunities, and other harm to those waiting on the results.

This lawsuit occurred over the court’s order for the state police to expunge specific criminal offenses. According to the suit, failing to process these expungements means the records continue appearing on background checks. As such, this has limited the 2019 “Clean Slate” expansions to the state’s long-standing expungement statute. The “Clean Slate” legislation expanded expungements to include most offenses after the completion of a waiting period.

Case Facts

The court also revealed how far behind the state police has fallen in the expungement process. The state has fallen roughly two years behind in processing the order. This delay has allowed potential landlords, employers, and others to see criminal records that the public should not access. It also caused thousands of New Jersey residents to lose employment, housing, and other opportunities

The director of the expungement law project made a statement concerning the process. According to the director, the New Jersey State Police received $15 million from taxpayers in 2019 to modernize and improve their expungement processing equipment. As such, the director feels it unexplainable and unacceptable for the State Police to have such extensive delays. The State Police has accumulated a backlog of over 46,000 expungement orders awaiting processing.

Plaintiff Claims

Six unnamed plaintiffs claim they lost jobs and other opportunities due to the state police not processing expungements in a timely manner. The issue has also affected victims of human trafficking. According to the suit, the state’s vacatur law should have expunged their trafficking-related offenses. This law allows courts to vacate convictions for victims of human trafficking. Unfortunately, the delays have also affected these expungements.

Another complication caused by the delays is the lack of information concerning when or if the expungements will happen. The New Jersey State Police stopped issuing confirmation letters. As such, the Administrative Office of the Courts no longer makes notifications available online. The plaintiffs in this case have asked the court to order the state police to improve processing times. However, they have not specified a timeframe.

Expungements can significantly benefit the affected individuals and employers. In light of these delays, however, employers should consider what offenses may disqualify an individual from a particular position. Second-chance hiring initiatives can benefit employers, workers, and the community. The best way to get started is by partnering with an experienced screening provider.

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