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In re Expungement of T.O.

New Jersey Supreme Court

January 11, 2021

The Supreme Court determined the “effect of a gubernatorial pardon on a request to expunge a criminal record” in In re Expungement of T.O. The appellant had two prior convictions, one in 1994 and the other in 1996. The governor pardoned him for both. But when the appellant sought expungement, the trial court held that N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2(a) forbade anyone from receiving an expungement when that person has two or more prior convictions. The trial court and the Appellate Division found that this was a statutory bar prohibiting the appellant from receiving an expungement. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court disagreed. The Court held that the pardon removed any “legal disability” resulting from the convictions. The underlying facts of the case remain — as do any intervening factors over the years — so there is no automatic right to expungement. But just as there is no right to it, the Supreme Court held there is no prohibition against expungement where the convictions have been pardoned.

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