North Carolina Legislators Reform Expungement Laws

North Carolina Legislators Reform Expungement Laws

Stern talking-to’s from teachers warned us that our actions would one day lead to a mark on our “permanent record.” At the time of the lecture, we shrugged off the warnings from our teachers and either continued doing what we wanted to do or decided to follow the rules. In school, the idea of something going on your “permanent record” wasn’t as scary or as detrimental as the reality of having a criminal record as an adult. The consequences one would face in school are not remotely comparable to the lasting repercussions one faces when their record is tainted with a conviction. Unfortunately, a criminal record can hinder job opportunities, limit a person’s access to government aid and even strip them of their right to vote – punishments that far exceed the ones carried out by the criminal justice system.

For this reason, states have enacted laws that permit criminal expungements – or the eradication or sealing of a criminal charge – for people who want to move on from their past mistakes. Bipartisan legislators in North Carolina have currently made strides to reform the state’s current expungement laws with the enactment of Senate Bill 445. Their aim was to make the expunction process more efficient and provide a system that is proven to be more merciful towards state residents with criminal charges.

The bill was currently signed into law by North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, and the changes in the old law are undoubtedly substantial. Under the previous law, people were only granted one expunction in their lifetime. The new law, however, permits more than one expunction in circumstances when charges are dismissed or a verdict is disposed “not guilty.” In North Carolina, residents who are charged with felony offenses oftentimes ultimately plead guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges, especially in cases involving drugs. Although the federal charges are dismissed, they still stay on a person’s record. Daniel Bowes, attorney for the state Second Chance Initiative and a drafter of the law, expounded on the adverse impact that dismissed felony drug charges have had on offenders.

“What we’ve seen is that the felony dismissed charges are more of a problem for employments, housing and other resources or opportunities than the misdemeanor drug conviction,” Bowes said. “The collateral consequences of a felony dismissed charge are often more severe than the direct consequences of the misdemeanor charge they were convicted of.”

In addition to these changes, the new law has shortened the amount of time first offenders convicted of nonviolent crimes are obligated to wait prior to seeking an expunction from 15 years to five years. Gov. Cooper spoke proudly of the revisions in the state’s expungement law, claiming that they were necessary.

“The criminal justice system should not end in incarceration; it should end in restoration,” Cooper said at a recent ceremony held at the State Capital. “We have to take affirmative steps to make sure that re-entry into society is successful, not only because it’s the right thing to do, the moral thing to do, but it’s the safe thing to do for our communities.”

Experienced Expungement Attorneys

Although the changes in North Carolina’s expungement laws have streamlined the process, it still is relatively time consuming and complex. There are still a number of steps that you must take to get your petition processed accurately and efficiently. Contact Caulder & Valentine today for a consultation and a shot at getting criminal charges off of your record.