On June 10, 2020 the Second Chance Act, dubbed the “clean slate” bill, passed in the House 119-0. This act expands expungement eligibility for nonviolent criminal convictions and allows certain automatic expungements. To “expunge” is the legal process to erase or remove completely a criminal record in the eyes of the law. This act streamlines the process for many different types of expungements, which ultimately makes it easier for people to find jobs, and provide for their families, especially in these difficult times. Before, when you might have been legally required to disclose a previous conviction or arrest, for a job or school application, if you get this record expunged are no longer legally required to disclose this previous criminal record.
What Does the Second Chance Act Change?
This act provides for multiples types of expungements including (1) automatic expungements, (2) juvenile conviction expungements, and (3) expanded non-violent felony and misdemeanor conviction expungements. Before, when previously non-eligible for record expungement due to a prior felony conviction, this Act does not make that an exclusion for expungement.
There are now certain automatic expungements—requiring no petition—that include dismissed charges for a misdemeanor or felony, and acquitted charges for a misdemeanor or felony, excluding motor vehicle violations, that occur on or after December 1, 2021.
Non-Violent Felony & Misdemeanor Expungements
Expungements have been available for certain non-violent felony and misdemeanor convictions, but are now expanded under this Act. However, these are still not automatic and must be filed by petition. To expunge a single non-violent felony conviction, you may only expunge this once. Expungements of multiple non-violent misdemeanors can happen more than once, but when the process has begun, any following misdemeanor convictions will not be eligible for expungement. To be eligible: you must not have a prior conviction of one of the excluded crimes listed in the new law, including for example, offenses that require sex offender registration, offenses that include assault, etc… For expungement of a felony conviction it must have been at least ten years since your last conviction, or you served the whole active sentence, including probation and post-release supervision. For expungement of a single misdemeanor conviction, it must have been at least five years since your last conviction, for multiple misdemeanor convictions, it must have been at least seven years, or you served your whole sentence, including probation and post-release supervision. If these requirements apply to you, your non-violent felony or misdemeanor convictions may be successfully expunged.
Juvenile Conviction Expungements
Expungements are also available for juvenile convictions, but are not automatic and must be filed by petition. Expungement may be available if: the crime was committed before the age of 16-17, any active sentence (including probationary period) has been served, the offense was a misdemeanor or Class H/I felony, and was not a violation of motor vehicle laws or required sex offender registration. If these requirements apply to you, your juvenile convictions may be successfully expunged.
Finally, expungements can be granted if you (1) have not been convicted of any felonies or misdemeanors during the five or ten year period, (2) you are found to have good moral character, (3) you have never been granted an expunction for a nonviolent felony/misdemeanor before, and (4) you have no outstanding warrants, restitutions, obligations, or pending criminal cases.
What Does this Mean for North Carolina Citizens?
The Act, while technical, brings multiple opportunities for people with prior juvenile convictions, nonviolent felony and misdemeanor convictions and dismissed charges/acquittals to finally seek deserved expungement. This means that if these records are expunged, you can now lawfully say that you have not been arrested or convicted of that offense. Having your record expunged can monumentally impact your life. Now, without that previous criminal conviction impacting your employment, educational, and financial opportunities you can now get that job opportunity, homeowners’ loan, or get into that educational institution you’ve always dreamed about. Having an expunged record can significantly impact your future.