If you have a criminal record, you know how this can negatively impact your future. A mistake made in the past may mean you are unable to get a job, rent an apartment, or receive student loans or government aid. You’re not alone in this; approximately one in four adults in North Carolina have some type of negative criminal record, ranging from dismissed charges that show up as red flags to juvenile charges that occurred over a decade ago.
Fortunately, the Second Chance Act went into effect in December 2020 and expands the opportunity for expungement to allow people to restore their good name and move forward with their lives. Our expungement attorneys in Raleigh are breaking down the Second Chance Act to help you determine if you are eligible.
What Is Expungement?
First, what is expungement, and what does it mean to have a record expunged? From a legal perspective, it means to destroy or seal a criminal conviction, removing it from a person’s record so that when a background check is run, the charges or conviction aren’t shown. Basically, it wipes the slate clean.
What Does the Second Chance Act Do?
Prior to December 2020, North Carolina had incredibly strict rules and narrow eligibility guidelines for what records could be expunged. The Second Chance Act expands eligibility and makes the process to remove charges and convictions much faster and more efficient. The Act can be broken into three parts.
1. Expungement of Juvenile Convictions
A large portion of the bill is geared toward clearing juvenile records, specifically, convictions against youths who were 16 or 17 at the time. This includes all convictions for misdemeanors, as well as Class H and Class I felonies committed prior to December 1, 2019.
A petition must be filed after any sentencing aspects (incarceration, probation, community service) have been completed in order for the conviction to be expunged. The exceptions to this include traffic offenses, including DWI, and sexual offenses that require the offender to register on the sex offender registry.
2. Expungement of Dismissed Charges and Not Guilty Verdicts
In North Carolina, dismissed charges and not guilty verdicts can still show up as a red flag on a background check. The Second Chance Act automates expungement of any dismissed charge or not guilty verdict that occurred after December 1, 2021. Any that occurred before that date will need to be petitioned for removal.
3. Expungement of Convictions
Prior to the Second Chance Act, removing nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies was incredibly challenging and, as we said above, had strict eligibility guidelines. Today, an individual can have nonviolent misdemeanors removed as well as one nonviolent felony. All sentencing guidelines must be completed, and an individual can petition the court for the following:
- 5 years after conviction for one misdemeanor
- 7 years after conviction for multiple misdemeanors
- 10 years after conviction for one felony
Who Can Apply for Expungement of Nonviolent Convictions?
Assuming the sentence is complete and the timelines have passed, let’s look at the eligibility guidelines to have a conviction expunged:
- No violent convictions can be on an individual’s record in order to expunge other nonviolent crimes
- No convictions during the waiting period of conviction to expungement, with the exception of minor traffic violations
- The individual must be determined to be of good moral character
- No outstanding restitution can be owed resulting from the original conviction
Additionally, the crimes that can be removed from the record are rather complex.
- Nonviolent misdemeanors, such as shoplifting, possession of marijuana, or possession of stolen property
- Class H felony, such as obtaining property by false pretenses
- Class I felony, such as forgery
- Any type of assault, including simple assault
- Crimes related to stalking
- Felonies involving methamphetamine, heroin, or cocaine
Do You Need an Expungement Attorney?
We would highly recommend working with an expungement attorney to clear your criminal convictions. The petitions and process involved is much more complicated than you may realize, and having an experienced attorney on your side can ensure that the process is completed correctly and improve your likelihood of clearing your name.
Schedule a Consultation with an Expungement Attorney Today
If you have a criminal conviction, reach out to an expungement attorney at Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, LLP. We will look at your unique case and help determine eligibility and what your options are. We can also represent you during any hearings and file petitions on your behalf to help improve the chance of favorable outcomes. To learn more, reach out to us today at [phone] or fill out the form below to get started.
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