Scranton, Pa

New Jersey Expands its Vacatur and Expungement Remedy for Human Trafficking Survivors

Posted: January 23, 2022

On January 18th, New Jersey’s Governor, Phil Murphy, signed into law Assembly Bill 5322, which expands the list of qualifying offenses for New Jersey’s vacatur remedy for human trafficking survivors. It expanded the list to include any offense aside from murder, (aggravated) manslaughter, kidnapping, luring or enticing a child, and sexual assault. Prior to this expansion, human trafficking survivors could only seek vacatur and expungement for two offenses: prostitution and loitering for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

This change recognizes that being a survivor of human trafficking can lead to a litany of offenses on one’s criminal record – not only do survivors have convictions for prostitution offenses, but often have convictions for theft, retail theft, and drug possession. Of special note is that this law removes the requirement that individuals petitioning for vacatur must establish they were victims of human trafficking at the time of the offense, which makes the vacatur and expungement remedy more accessible and less re-traumatizing.

Additionally, this new law allows for other types of dispositions, on top of convictions, to qualify for vacatur, including any finding of guilt, disposition, or adjudication of delinquency. It also adds two new sections to its vacatur law. One section provides that notified parties must file objections to the motion within 60 days, otherwise the motion will proceed unopposed. The other section provides that if the crime to be vacated is of the 1st or 2nd degree, victims may submit a victim impact statement. However, the prosecutor can prevent submission of a victim impact statement if the so-called victim was the trafficker or if the notification could endanger the petition.

The CSE Institute commends New Jersey for expanding its vacatur and expungement remedy in recognition of the trauma that survivors of human trafficking have endured, leading to a wide range of offenses on their criminal records that directly resulted from their victimization. Moreover, the CSE Institute encourages all states to follow New Jersey’s lead and expand their own vacatur and expungement laws in a similar fashion to better serve victims.

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