What is a Crime Spree Expungement?

New Jersey’s Crime Spree Exception for Expungements

Crime Spree Expungement NJ Need Lawyer The process of expungement offers individuals a clean slate by clearing their criminal histories. It provides those with arrests, criminal charges, and convictions a chance to rebuild their lives and regain opportunities available to others. They can seek employment, housing, and education without fear of rejection due to their background checks. To that effect, New Jersey laws have evolved recently to allow more expungement opportunities, including the Clean Slate Act and the crime spree exception to expungement restrictions. Through these legislative acts, New Jersey has expanded the number of offenses available for expungement.

Scope and Limitations of Expungements in New Jersey

N.J.S.A. 2C:52-27 allows arrest and conviction records to disappear from the records employers, university admissions officers, professional licensing boards, and landlords can see when considering applications. The practical effect on the public is that the incidents essentially never occurred, allowing an applicant equal opportunities to essentials, like housing and jobs, as others without a criminal record. However, you cannot clear all crimes from your record. You are limited by time, number, and crime.

For example, you may not delete the highest-level criminal convictions involving violence, sexual offenses, and other crimes involving betraying the public trust, like perjury and abusing a public office. You are also limited to the number and type of offenses you can expunge at one time. For example, you can delete one indictable offense and as many as three disorderly persons offenses. In addition, you can expunge up to five disorderly offenses when you have no indictable offenses to clear. That being said, some individuals are eligible to expunge more from their criminal records through the crime spree exception.

Crime Spree Exception Meaning in NJ Expungement Law

N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a) allows you to erase more convictions and offenses under the “crime spree exception.” As an exception to the general rule of expungement, New Jersey enacted the crime spree exception in late 2018 to expand the number of available expungements, as long as they meet the criteria of a crime spree. So, a court may approve removing a higher number of indictable convictions, disorderly persons offenses, or petty disorderly persons offenses from an applicant’s criminal record under the crime spree exception if the individual has no other convictions before and after the crime spree.

When you have multiple indictable criminal convictions in one decree or multiple convictions that interrelate and arise from a single incidence or sequence of events occurring in a short time, you can delete them all with a “crime spree expungement.” As long as the criminal convictions arise out of the same criminal circumstances, meaning they are “interdependent or closely related in circumstances,” occurring within a “comparatively short” period of time of one another, or as part of a sequence of events, the “crime spree” exception applies. The intent behind the crime spree exception is to allow reformed individuals to reintegrate fully into society and not hamper their efforts indefinitely for one period in their lives.

For example, your criminal history may include three indictable criminal convictions for shoplifting incidents within one week. The circumstances include a shoplifting spree in which you hit three stores within a five-mile radius during that week. The same life situation during that period of your life led to each of the crimes, and convictions for each incident are based on the same circumstances and contained in one judgment. These three convictions may be expungeable.

NJ Case Law on Crime Spree Expungements

When the Crime Spree Exception was Applied for an Expungement

In the November 2019 case of the State of New Jersey vs. A.R., the Superior Court of Monmouth County granted the expungement of criminal convictions for distributing marijuana, distributing marijuana within 100 feet of a school, and distributing Ecstasy over a two-and-a-half-month period. The defendant sold the drugs to a friend, who turned out to be an undercover agent, in order to fund his drug addiction.

Twenty years later, A.R.’s application for expungement showed that he had rehabilitated from drug addiction and acquired a psychology degree, but was unable to get a job in his field, or any job, due to his criminal record. He was 38 and living with his mother. The court’s opinion focused on the legal components of interdependence and the “comparatively short” time between the crimes. The court found that drug addiction linked the criminal interrelatedness to the relatively short time between crimes, but specifically noted the absence of criminal activity before and for twenty years afterward.

When the Court Determined a Crime Spree Exception Did NOT Apply

On the other hand, in an Appellate Division case of In the Matter of the Expungement of C.P.M. in December 2019, the applicant was not granted a crime spree exception expungement for a March 2000 possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS) conviction, an April 10, 2005 possession of a CDS conviction, and June 22, 2005 burglary and criminal mischief convictions. The court determined the convictions were not “closely related in circumstances.”

In that case, the defendant claimed he was addicted to drugs and alcohol, which led to the 2000 drug possession conviction that was dismissed upon a conditional discharge and the later possession, burglary, and criminal mischief charges. He claimed impairment by drugs and alcohol was behind his breaking into his girlfriend’s room with a baseball bat once he discovered she was in there with another man. The connection made to the drug possession, burglary, and criminal mischief convictions was drug addiction.

The trial court found that incidents were interrelated, but the Appellate Court did not. The defendant claimed that he drank and took drugs during the burglary incident, but no drug-related charges arose from the incident, and the defendant stated that the cocaine leading to the 2000 drug bust was for a friend. Thus, the court concluded that it would have to take the defendant’s word for the interdependence and close relation of the crimes since the defendant proffered the motive for the crimes’ relatedness. The plain language of the exception does not require a court to delve into the expungement applicant’s motivations to determine the connection between the crimes.

What is a Required for a Crime Spree Expungement in NJ?

Given recent case law interpretation of what constitutes “interdependence” and “time relation” between crimes to qualify for a crime spree expungement exception, an applicant must show definitively that the crime spree was a brief, isolated time of closely connected crimes arising from the same circumstances. Addiction alone may not be enough to warrant the expungement of more convictions than what the law allows.

New Jersey Crime Spree Expungement Lawyers can Assist with Your Petition

If you are considering expunging your record in New Jersey, let an experienced expungement attorney at The Tormey Law Firm help you. You may need to determine which convictions and records are open for removal, whether you have satisfied the required waiting period, and if you qualify them for the crime spree exception. After discussing your criminal history with one of our knowledgeable expungement lawyers, we can assist with evaluating your eligibility for an expungement under the crime spree exception, assemble your petition, and successfully show the court that the crime spree expungement exception should apply in your case. Contact us seven days a week, 24 hours a day at (201)-556-1570 to speak with an NJ expungement attorney who can provide you with a free consultation and help ensure your application is successful.


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