In the Matter of the Expungement Petition of R.B.T.
Appellate Docket No.: A-2454-19T2
Decided October 14, 2020
Submitted by New Jersey Criminal Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.
In an unpublished opinion, the Appellate Division of New Jersey reviewed a grating of an expungement application for a former municipal court judge that completed PTI after misappropriating fines.
In Expungement of R.B.T., R.B.T. was a municipal court judge in nine towns in Monmouth County: Union Beach, Oceanport, Colts Neck, Tinton Falls, Rumson, Neptune City, Bradley Beach, and Eatontown. R.B.T. pled guilty to committing numerous illegal acts on multiple occasions in his capacity as a judge. He converted all or part of municipal court defendants’ suspended fines to contempt of court fines without a legal basis. He issued municipal defendants contempt of court fines for being late without confirming if they were late, nor did he give “late” defendants an opportunity to explain. Further, R.B.T. issued defendants contempt of court fines for disobeying prior court orders without confirming that such prior orders existed. He also suspended fines and converted them to contempt of court fines after defendants left court. Also, on some occasions, when R.B.T. accepted an affidavit from attorneys on behalf of their client, he would suspend the fine and convert it to contempt of court after the attorney left the room. On one occasion, he threatened a defendant who questioned a contempt assessment with jail when that defendant stated that he wanted a lawyer.
R.B.T.’s converted fines did not go to him personally, but the improper fines helped him get appointed to various municipal judgeships. R.B.T. knew that Monmouth County and the towns he served shared fine money equally from motor vehicle tickets. He also knew 100% of the contempt of court fines go to the town and are not shared with the county. Thus, by suspending mandatory fines and converting those fines to contempt of court sanctions, R.B.T. diverted money away from Monmouth County to the towns.
As a result of his improper scheme, the towns received more than their fair share of fine revenue from fines. Thus, R.B.T. “guaranteed future appointments to the bench” by converting fines to contempt fines and securing more money for the towns than they otherwise would have received. R.B.T.’s illegal actions resulted in $1.2 million dollars of ticket-related revenue, $600,000 of which was improperly diverted to the towns.
After an investigation, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office arrested him and charged him with falsifying records. In exchange for a guilty plea, the prosecutor allowed R.B.T. to apply for Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) as well as a forfeit of public office. After successfully completing PTI, the court dismissed the fourth degree charge and R.B.T. moved to expunge the criminal records relating to the incident. The State objected, but the Court granted the expungement application.
The State appealed. The Appellate Division found that R.B.T. had met the requirements of PTI and the expungement statute, making him eligible. This shifts the burden to the State to provide a reason, by the preponderance of the evidence, as to why R.B.T. should not be granted an expungement. The Appellate Division found that he State was unable to meet this burden and affirmed the trial court’s granting of the expungement.
As shown above, the critical point here is being eligible for expungement. Once you are eligible under the expungement statute, it is very difficult for the State to object to an expungement application, and it will most likely be granted. If you have a criminal record or arrest with a dismissal that you believe may be eligible for an expungement, contact Hark & Hark today to begin the process.
At Hark & Hark, we represent clients in Superior Court for criminal matters like the present case involving expungements. We vigorously defend our clients by fighting to uphold their constitutional rights, and ensure law enforcement follow proper procedures to legally make an arrest.
We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing criminal charges similar to this circumstance, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Ocean, and Salem counties.