Local & State
|A second chance for ex-offenders with NC expunction legislation|
|Bill gives offenders path to clear criminal record|
|Published Thursday, May 16, 2019 12:49 pm|
|The North Carolina Senate has passed The Second Chance Act, which expands opportunities for ex-offenders to expunge their criminal records for certain nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions.|
Former offenders are a step closer to wiping out their criminal records.
The North Carolina Senate last week unanimously passed The Second Chance Act, which will expand the opportunity for individuals to have certain nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions expunged after their sentences have been completed.
The bill, sponsored by Sens. Danny Britt (R-Robeson), Warren Daniel (R-Burke), and Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), allows people who have been convicted of misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies as 16- or 17-year-olds to petition the court for expungement. The bill would ensure that anyone convicted before the state’s “raise the age” law, which charges 16- and 17-year-olds as juveniles, takes effect on Dec. 1 will be in the same position as peers who will have their juvenile records sealed after the law goes into effect.
The bill, advocates say, will give young nonviolent offenders a chance at productive lives by removing barriers to college or employment.
“Everyone is subject to the rule of law, but those who have served their time deserve the opportunity to turn their lives around without the burden of these low-level convictions on their permanent record, hindering them from getting into college, joining the military or getting jobs,” Britt, Daniel and McKissick said in a joint statement. “This bill frees individuals from this unwarranted and unnecessary burden and gives them a second chance to become a productive member of society.”
In addition to the changes for juvenile convictions, the bill allows individuals to petition the court for the expunction of multiple nonviolent misdemeanors or felonies. Under current law, there is a lifetime limit of one expunction no matter how long it has been since an individual was convicted of a crime. Individuals will be permitted to petition the court for multiple expunctions after a seven-year waiting period provided it has been at least 10 years since their last felony conviction or at least five years since the last misdemeanor conviction.
“Our justice system must promote accountability for those convicted of breaking the law,” said Lynn Burke, a former convict who went on to earn a law degree from North Carolina Central University but can’t practice here because of her conviction. “However, when someone has been held accountable in a professional manner, they should have their liberty restored and be provided an opportunity to rejoin the community with dignity. Many people can find themselves released from prison but lack education and a place to live. The majority of ex-offenders who are released or will be released from prison have no place to go and shelters are usually full and most end up sleeping under bridges and abandoned buildings.”
The bill also creates an automatic expunction for individuals who are acquitted or have charges dismissed after July 1, 2020 and directs the Department of Public Safety, Department of Justice and Administrative Office of the Courts to develop recommendations and costs involved to automate this process. Convictions for motor vehicle violations, including driving while impaired, are not eligible.
“Expunction is very, very helpful,” McKissick said. “It opens up the door for employment. It opens the doors for housing, because some apartment complexes, you can’t even get into if you have a criminal record. It opens their lives to a degree of normalcy.”
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