Nov. 29, 2012. The beginning of next week will offer a new beginning to thousands of individuals who have long since paid their debts to society.
A new law allowing for expunctions of first-time nonviolent misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions 15 years after an individual has fully completed his or her sentence was signed into law on July 16, and will take effect on Dec. 1, 2012. If eligible, an individual must demonstrate he or she possesses good moral character and has been on good behavior throughout the 15-year waiting period.
The law will benefit those who have long demonstrated a sincere dedication to contributing to society through their upstanding behavior, but are still being denied opportunities to reintegrate with and contribute to their communities.
As the first law in North Carolina to provide general expungement opportunities to individuals convicted as adults, it is a positive step forward, and will provide relief to tens of thousands of eligible individuals.
“This new law is a measured but historic response to the heavy burden of collateral consequences weighing down the 1.6 million North Carolinians with criminal records—consequences that often follow individuals throughout their personal and professional lives, and can have a more devastating effect than their actual criminal punishments,” said Daniel Bowes, a staff attorney with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Collateral Consequences Initiative. “Although this law is not perfect, it will make a huge difference in the lives of tens of thousands of eligible individuals across the state.”
When the law takes effect, North Carolina will become one of a handful of states providing opportunities for expunction to individuals with nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions. Laws in these states typically require a waiting period of between 5 and 10 years before an expunction may be granted.
“This new expunction opportunity demonstrates that North Carolina’s lawmakers are beginning to recognize that perpetually isolating individuals from gainful employment, affordable housing, and community supports triggers collateral consequences that serve as barriers to reentry and ultimately do more harm than good,” Bowes said.
The NC Justice Center is part of the Second Chance Alliance, a statewide alliance of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders and directly-impacted citizens that aims to achieve the safe and successful reintegration of adults and juveniles with criminal records by promoting policies that remove barriers to productive citizenship. The alliance was critical in speaking out in support of the legislation.
To prepare its advocacy agenda for the upcoming legislative session, the Second Chance Alliance recently hosted a series of listening sessions in communities around the state in which more than 100 individuals with criminal records, reentry service providers, and other interested citizens participated. Visit the Second Chance Alliance website at www.ncsecondchance.org.