N.J.S.A. 2c:52-2b Interpretation
In N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2b, the Legislature created two separate categories of crimes eligible for expungement, those in the first paragraph of the statute involving convictions of crimes under repealed statutes (pre-Code crimes), and those involving Code offenses.
Notably, the prior expungement statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28, is almost identical to the first unnumbered paragraph of N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2b, and contained the same exception for "rape."
As in the current statute, this was the sole pre-Code sex crime made ineligible for expungement in N.J.S.A. 2A:164-28.
In continuing the exception for "rape" in the current expungement statute, the Legislature intended that the crime of "carnal abuse" committed under the repealed statute be governed by the same standard for expungement as existed at the time the crime was committed.
In so doing, the Legislature implicitly recognized that such a consistent approach would assure fairness, continuity, and efficiency in the judicial management of expungement cases arising under the repealed statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:138-1.
Additionally, because N.J.S.A. 2C:52-2b contains exceptions to the general rule of expungement set forth in subsection a, we examine the purpose of the statute.
Exceptions to a statute are to be strictly construed in a manner consistent with the statute's purpose. In re Singer, supra, 314 N.J. Super. at 119, 714 A.2d 322.
The stated purpose behind the expungement statute is set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:52-32:
the laws relating to expungement shall be construed with the primary objective of providing relief to the one-time offender who has led a life of rectitude and disassociated himself with unlawful activity, but not to create a system whereby periodic violators of the law or those who associate themselves with criminal activity have a regular means of expunging their police and criminal records.