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In re Expungement of the Criminal Records of G.P.B.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division

June 9, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF THE EXPUNGEMENT OF THE CRIMINAL RECORDS OF G.P.B

Submitted May 28, 2014.

Approved for Publication June 9, 2014.

On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Warren County, Docket No. 11-EX-12.

Richard T. Burke, Warren County Prosecutor, attorney for appellant State of New Jersey ( Kelly Anne Shelton, Assistant Prosecutor, of counsel and on the brief).

Krovatin Klingeman, LLC, attorneys for respondent G.P.B. ( Gerald Krovatin and Ernesto Cerimele, on the brief).

Before Judges FISHER, ESPINOSA and O'CONNOR. The opinion of the court was delivered by FISHER, P.J.A.D.

OPINION

[436 N.J.Super. 49] FISHER, P.J.A.D.

Page 649

In this appeal, we again[1] consider whether the so-called " crime-spree" principle formulated in In re Fontana, 146 N.J.Super. 264, 267, 369 A.2d 935 (App. Div. 1976) -- a product of our interpretation of an earlier, differently-worded expungement statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28 -- has application to a petition seeking expungement [436 N.J.Super. 50] pursuant to the current statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a), of a single judgment encompassing multiple crimes committed on two different days.

The record demonstrates that, on September 16, 1999, petitioner pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree conspiracy, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2, and three counts of third-degree making gifts to public servants, N.J.S.A. 2C:27-6(b). At his plea hearing, petitioner acknowledged he and another agreed to make a monetary campaign contribution to one municipal official on April 19, 1999, and to two other municipal officials on April 20, 1999, to secure their opposition to a municipal resolution. This illicit agreement also included petitioner's promise to make additional campaign contributions once the municipal officials voted against the resolution. At sentencing, the conspiracy conviction was merged into the convictions on the three other crimes, and petitioner was sentenced to concurrent three-year probationary terms conditioned upon a thirty-day stay in the county jail; community service, fines and other penalties were also imposed.

On November 15, 2012, petitioner filed this action, seeking expungement of records relating to the 2001 judgment of conviction. The State objected and, following argument, the trial judge granted the application for reasons set forth in an oral decision. In appealing, the State argues that the judge erred in granting expungement because " petitioner was convicted of three separate crimes committed on two separate dates."

The expungement of criminal records is available only if authorized by legislation. There is no constitutional or common law right to the expungement of records relating to a criminal conviction.[2] The order under review was based solely on the trial judge's interpretation of N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a), which states, in pertinent part, that a person's criminal records may be expunged when that person

[436 N.J.Super. 51] has been convicted of a crime under the laws of this State and . . . has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent crime . . ., after the expiration of a period of 10 years . . . .

[Emphasis added.]

The statute imposes other requirements, but we need not consider them because, in seeking reversal, the State argues only that petitioner was convicted of " crimes" not " a crime" or, stated another way, petitioner failed to prove he had not been convicted of any prior or subsequent crime because he pleaded guilty to ...


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