Nonprofit hosts clinic to expunge criminal records

Volunteer UP provides attorneys for free help with the process

Special to The Sun
The Volunteer UP nonprofit will be holding its second expungement clinic on

For the second consecutive year, the nonprofit Volunteer UP will host an expungement clinic Monday, Jan. 15 in Camden.

The Martin Luther King Day event is being co-hosted by the Camden County College, Camden County Commissioners and Archer & Greiner, P.C.

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“Too many people have been disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system, and their pasts are holding them back from creating a better future for themselves,” said Commissioner Jonathan Young. “And for many people, hiring an attorney to sort out legal issues is too expensive.

“So this event breaks down those barriers and allows for our residents to find answers, make progress and work towards successful futures.”

Interested individuals are encouraged to pre-register for the clinic, but can also walk in to the free session and meet with an attorney about having their eligible criminal records expunged. Patty Legge, executive director for Volunteer UP, said private attorneys can charge upward of $1,500 to start that process, which sometimes ends without a result because offenses turn out to be inexpungeable.

“It’s a really happy day for everyone because on the spot, the attorneys are able to file for the expungement of the record, and then of course it goes through the court system,” Legge explained. “But even if people are ineligible, like say so far they might have a year to go or any kind of other impediment, they’ll pay a fine, that type of thing.

“At least they walk away knowing there’s this possibility in the future of (expungement), and they know what they have to do to get to the point where they are able to file.”

After an attorney files for expungement, the issue goes to the courts, where the prosecutor’s office and any police agency involved at the time of an offense can object, Legge noted. An expungement petition then goes before a judge, who can sign off on it. Approval is then relayed to law enforcement to “take a record off the books.”

Last year’s expungement clinic drew about 300 people, with a vast majority of them walk-ins. This year, Volunteer UP hopes to serve more and is encouraging people to register in advance. The group will then search records ahead of time, and if they find a particular record is not eligible to be expunged, the registrant can be notified before the clinic.

“You can see the people walking out of this clinic and the weight that’s been lifted from their shoulders and their lives,” Legge related, citing people with offenses from years ago who no longer have to worry about the implications of a record, such as when they seek housing or employment.

“We often have older folks who had things in their past that just kind of want that freedom,” she added. “It’s not that the charges are a barrier in their lives at that point, but just to say, ‘I changed things around, I am not that person anymore’ ,,, enables people to become productive members of society, without feeling bad about something that happened in their past.

“Their past is not defining their future anymore.”

Volunteer Up is a nonprofit that helps year-round with civil or municipal work such as driver’s license restoration assistance.

The expungement clinic will take place at the Camden city campus of Camden County College the college, 601 Cooper St., in Camden Technology Center Room 202. Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The clinic is open to anyone with New Jersey charges; federal charges are not expungeble. Participants must bring their state ID or driver’s license.

To ensure attorney speaking time, register at htps://

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