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State v. K.S.

Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Sussex

July 24, 2017

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, Plaintiff,
v.
K.S., Defendant.

          Shaina Brenner, Assistant Prosecutor, for plaintiff (Francis A. Koch, Sussex County Prosecutor, attorney).

          Leanne Healy, Assistant Deputy Public Defender, for defendant (Joseph E. Krakora, Public Defender, attorney).

          OPINION

          JAMES M. DEMARZO, J.S.C.

         The instant case comes before the court by way of a petition for Drug Court expungement, filed by K.S.[1] ("defendant"), under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m). The State filed opposition. On March 31, 2017, oral argument was held on the matter. The gravamen of the State's objection is that the petitioner is currently barred under the "Drug Court" Expungement Statute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m)(1), which states in pertinent part that a petitioner is not eligible for expungement of his/her records under this subsection if the person was "convicted of any crime, or adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person, during the term of special probation." (Emphasis added).

         HISTORY

         Defendant's criminal court history reveals five total offenses. None of those convictions are non-expungable under N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m)(2). On January 7, 2013, defendant was sentenced to two years of probation with credit for ten days of jail time served for third degree eluding, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:2 9-2(b). During probation, two violations of probation ("VOP") were filed against defendant. Thereafter, on April 8, 2014, defendant was resentenced to three years of Passaic County Drug Court special probation.[2]

         Prior to receiving his sentence to Drug Court, defendant was charged with hindering apprehension, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:2 9-3(b), on May 16, 2013, in Roxbury Township. Defendant was found guilty of that offense on November 13, 2014.

         Additionally, defendant was charged with fourth degree theft by unlawful taking, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3(a), on February 6, 2014. On December 15, 2014, defendant was found guilty in municipal court of said offense.

         Thus, prior to being admitted into special Drug Court probation, the defendant was charged with two new offenses; however, he was not "convicted" by way of pleading guilty to and being sentenced until after he was placed on special Drug Court probation. It should be further noted that during defendant's Drug Court special probation, he did not commit any new crimes. On October 13, 2016, defendant successfully graduated and was discharged from Drug Court. All parties agree that it would be highly unlikely that he would be facing a violation of probation by virtue of resolving the pending matters at the time he was placed into probation. He has not been charged or convicted of any new subsequent crimes after graduation. He does not have any crimes on his criminal case history that would bar the expungement, such as a robbery, etc.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When engaging in statutory interpretation, the overriding goal is to give effect to the Legislature's intent. State v. D.A., 191 N.J. 158, 164 (2007). The bestindicator of such intent is the plain statutory language selected by the Legislature. Ibid, (citing State v. Perry, 439 N.J.Super. 514, 523 (App. Div. 2015)). The words shall be ascribed their ordinary meaning and significance. See DiProspero v. Penn, 183 N.J. 47 7, 4 92 (2005). In doing so, the words should be read in context with the related provisions to give sense to the legislation as a whole. Ibid. If the language is clear and unambiguous, and susceptible to only one interpretation, no further inquiry should be made. Ibid. However, if there is ambiguity in the language that could lead to more than one plausible interpretation, courts may consider extrinsic evidence, including legislative history, committee reports, and contemporaneous construction. Id. at 4 92-93. Courts "may not 'rewrite a statute or add language that the Legislature omitted.'" See State v. Munafo, 222 N.J. 480 (2015) (citations omitted).

         N.J.S.A. 2C:35-14(m) provides:

(1) The Superior Court may order the expungement of all records and information relating to all prior arrests, detentions, convictions, and proceedings for any offense enumerated in Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes upon successful discharge from a term of special probation as provided in this section, regardless of whether the person was sentenced to special probation under this section, section 2 of P.L. 2012, c.23 (C.2C:35-14.2) or N.J.S. 2C:45-1, if the person satisfactorily completed a substance abuse treatment program as ordered by the court and was not convicted of any crime, or adjudged a disorderly person or petty disorderly person, during the term of special probation. The provisions of N.J.S. 2C:52-7 through N.J.S. 2C:52-14 shall not apply to an expungement pursuant to this paragraph and no fee shall be charged to a person eligible for relief pursuant to this paragraph. The court shall grant the relief requested unless it finds that the need for the availability of the records outweighs the desirability of having the person freed from any disabilities associated with their availability, or it finds that the person is otherwise ineligible for expungement pursuant to paragraph (2) of this subsection. An expungement under this paragraph shall proceed in accordance with rules and procedures developed by the Supreme Court.
(2) A person shall not be eligible for expungement under paragraph (1) of this subsection if the records include a conviction for any offense barred from expungement pursuant to subsection b. or c. of N.J.S. 2C:52-2. It shall be the obligation of the prosecutor to notify the court of any disqualifying convictions or any other factors related to public safety that should be considered ...

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