October 22, 2019
appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Atlantic County, Docket No. XP-18-0686.
Lynn Campellone, Assistant Prosecutor, argued the cause for
appellant State of New Jersey (Damon G. Tyner, Atlantic
County Prosecutor, attorney; Nicole Lynn Campellone, of
counsel and on the briefs).
W. Ruggieri argued the cause for respondent C.P.M. (Katherine
O'Brien Law, attorneys; Robert W. Ruggieri, of counsel
and on the brief; Katherine North O'Brien, on the brief).
Judges Hoffman, Currier and Firko.
this matter, we address whether it was error to grant
C.P.M.'s petition for expungement under the
"crime spree" doctrine set forth in the 2018
amendment to N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a). Because we conclude that
C.P.M.'s convictions were not "closely related in
circumstances," and, therefore, are not eligible for
expungement, we reverse.
October 2018, C.P.M. filed a petition seeking to expunge
three offenses from his criminal record: (1) a March 27, 2000
possession of controlled dangerous substance (CDS) charge, in
violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(4), which resulted in
dismissal by conditional discharge; (2) an April 10, 2005
conviction for third-degree possession of CDS, in violation
of N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10(a)(1); and (3) two June 22, 2005
convictions for fourth-degree burglary, in violation of
N.J.S.A. 2C:18-2, and fourth-degree criminal mischief, in
violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:17-3(a)(1).
time of C.P.M.'s sentencing in 2006, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a)
only permitted an individual to expunge one crime. The
In all cases, except as herein provided, wherein a person has
been convicted of a crime under the laws of this State
and who has not been convicted of any prior or subsequent
crime, whether within this State or any other
jurisdiction, and has not been adjudged a disorderly person
or petty disorderly person on more than two occasions may,
after the expiration of a period of 10 years from the date of
his conviction, . . . present a duly verified petition . . .
to the Superior Court in the county in which the conviction
was entered praying that such conviction and all records and
information pertaining thereto be expunged.
[N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a) (2006) (emphasis added).]
the requirement that a court could only grant an expungement
to an applicant who had not been "convicted of any prior
or subsequent crime," petitions were periodically
granted under a "single spree" or "crime
spree" doctrine. This doctrine, first enunciated in
In re Fontana, 146 N.J.Super. 264, 267 (App. Div.
1976), was later rejected in In re Ross, 400
N.J.Super. 117, 122 (App. Div. 2008).
2015, the Supreme Court definitively rejected the crime spree
doctrine, holding that the Legislature clearly intended to
"permit expungement of a single conviction arising from
multiple offenses only if those offenses occurred as part of
a single, uninterrupted criminal event." In re
Expungement Petition of J.S., 223 N.J. 54, 73
(2015). The Court noted that, throughout its various
iterations, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 consistently "limit[ed]
expungement to offenders who have committed no more than an
isolated infraction in an otherwise law-abiding life."
Id. at 66.
Court continued, stating:
[t]he statute's import is clear: no matter how many
offenses are resolved by one conviction, expungement is
available only for a single "crime" and is
unavailable if another "crime" took place before or
after the offense to be expunged.
. . . .
In short, notwithstanding its substantial expansion of
opportunities for expungement in other respects in its 1979
and 2010 amendments, the Legislature evidently sought a
stricter limit on the expungement of multiple offenses when
it amended N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2 to add the term ''prior
or subsequent crime.'' . . . The Legislature limited
expungement to a single ''crime.'' . . . A
single crime does not necessarily result in a single offense,
given that multiple charges may arise from one crime. Rather,
it involves a single, uninterrupted criminal event or
incident. The Legislature clearly intended to bar expungement
when the offender has committed a second crime at an earlier
or later time, whether or not those crimes are resolved in
the same judgment of conviction.
[Id. at 73-77 (citations omitted).]
October 1, 2018, N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a) was amended to allow
individuals to expunge more than one indictable offense under
certain circumstances. The statute provides:
In all cases, except as herein provided, a person may present
an expungement application to the Superior Court pursuant to
this section ...