Under certain situations, individuals in New Jersey can apply for the expungement of their mental health commitment records. The intent of these provisions is to eliminate any stigmas that might attach to a person who was committed to a psychiatric hospital. Expungement may be possible regardless of whether a commitment was voluntary or involuntary in nature. In addition, it may be possible to expunge determinations of dangerousness.
There are many reasons why people wish to expunge their mental health records. For example, once the information is expunged, any disabilities relating to firearms are removed. Thus, if you have been disqualified from either purchasing or possessing a firearm under the federal NCIS Improvement Amendment Act of 2007, an expungement of your mental health record will relieve you from any federal firearms disability. Moreover, if you reside in New Jersey and have been disqualified from obtaining a firearms identification card pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:58-3(c)(3), or denied purchase of a firearm, an expungement of your mental health record will likewise relieve you from the disqualification. Even if your mental health record has been expunged, however, it is important to note that you must nonetheless disclose that you have a history of civil confinement or commitment on your firearms permit application in New Jersey.
N.J.S.A. 30:4-80.8 is the New Jersey Statute that governs the expungement of mental health commitment records. That section provides as follows:
Any person who has been, or shall be, committed to any institution or facility providing mental health services, or has been determined to be a danger to himself, others, or property, or determined to be an incapacitated individual as defined in N.J.S.3B:1-2, by order of any court or by voluntary commitment and who was, or shall be, discharged from such institution or facility as recovered, or whose illness upon discharge, or subsequent to discharge or determination, is substantially improved or in substantial remission, may apply to the court by which such commitment was made, or to the Superior Court by verified petition setting forth the facts and praying for the relief provided for in this act.
As can be seen, the statute first requires a showing that the individual has been discharged from mental health care and that they are considered to be either (1) recovered; (2) substantially improved; or (3) in remission. For purposes of expungement, the relevant time period for proving the individual falls under one of those three classifications is at the time of the request for the expungement, not at the time of their discharge from commitment.
A petition for expungement must be filed with either the court that ordered the commitment or a New Jersey Superior Court. Certain individuals, such as the county adjuster, the medical director of the institution where the individual was committed, and any parties that may have applied or advocated for the commitment, must be notified of the request for expungement.
In deciding whether to grant the expungement, court take into consideration the circumstances surrounding the commitment and the individual’s mental and criminal health history as well as and evidence of the individual’s reputation in the community. In order to grant the expungement, the court must make two specific findings. First, the court must find that the individual is not likely to act in a manner dangerous to the public. Second, the court must find that the expungement is consistent with the public interest.
In many ways, the expungement of mental health commitment records is similar in to expungement of criminal records. There are also several differences between the two, however. In contrast to expunged criminal records, it is not a crime for a person to disclose information regarding an individual’s expunged mental health commitment record. In addition, unlike with expungements of criminal records, you are not required to disclose mental health information that has been expunged when applying for a position in law enforcement, corrects, or the judiciary.
The attorneys at theWolf Law are highly experienced in handling a wide variety expungement petitions throughout the State of New Jersey. If you are interested in obtaining an expungement or your mental health commitment or determination records, or if you would like to speak to an attorney for a free consultation, please call us at anytime at 732-741-4448.