Governor Chris Christie signed a New Jersey bill requiring the Attorney General and the county’s prosecutor’s office to remove information or update public statements from the internet after the acquittal of a prosecuted individual. The new law known as A1945, will take effect on September 1st, 2017. Press releases from the Office of the Attorney General website must be updated to state the charges against a particular individual have been dropped, or the information posted must be removed all together. Information concerning the indictments and prosecutions of individuals who were later acquitted or had charges dismissed must be removed from each county’s respective website. The Attorney General must also inform the public that the indicted individual was acquitted of the charges or that the charges were dismissed.
The Attorney General is also responsible for providing a certification letter to each individual acquitted of a crime, or in which charges were dismissed. Sponsors of the bill are working in favor of cleaning up the online reputations of individuals found not guilty. Criminal charges are a matter of public record, which infiltrate the internet in today’s technological age. Although charges can be dismissed, information on the internet is available forever. This bill targets law enforcement agencies that run their own websites and social media pages, which include detailed information about charged individuals. Search engine results of a formerly charged individual’s name will produce link to government agencies’ pages. The act works to ensure that the information provides by these agencies on the internet is updated and accurate.
At this time the legislation does not include any information about how the law will be regulated. No penalty has been established in order to ensure compliance by law enforcement agencies. Without a monitoring system, there is no guarantee the act will be followed. The bill only targets government agencies, not privately-owned media outlets such as NJ.com, The Patch, and other local news publications. This issue has been problematic for our clients in the past, as information has remained on the internet well after their exonerations. Our law office hopes that once this bill is put into practice, other media agencies will follow in removing information about a previously charged individual who has since been acquitted or had the charges dismissed.