When defense attorneys talk about the consequences of an arrest, they often speak of the collateral damage to a defendant’s life — including the possibility that an arrest and conviction will haunt the defendant’s footsteps forever. A decades-old theft conviction for shoplifting, for example, could make every potential employer distrust you. A charge for assault over a bar fight in your youth could continue to brand you a “violent” person for years — even if you weren’t convicted.
Well, it turns out that most of the residents of North Carolina don’t feel like that’s fair. A poll orchestrated by Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform gave telling results:
- 89% of the overall population in the state wants criminal records to be automatically cleaned up when a case is dismissed or a defendant is acquitted.
- 86% of residents think that misdemeanor convictions for nonviolent crimes should fall off a person’s record if they’ve stayed out of trouble for at least seven years.
- 81% of people think that defendants convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors should be permitted to clear their records after just five years (assuming they’ve stayed out of further trouble).
The results were fairly standard across political affiliations, indicating that the state’s populace is ready for reforms to the way that criminal defendants are treated after their cases are long over.
Currently, Senate Bill 562, known as “The Second Chance Act” is sitting in the state House, waiting for approval. If it passes and eventually becomes law, it would allow many people who are suffering from the collateral damage of a serious criminal charge (without a conviction) or a conviction for a fairly minor crime a new lease on life and the ability to start over with a clean record.
The criminal justice system, as it exists, isn’t easy on defendants in North Carolina. If you or your loved one is charged with a crime, call an experienced defense attorney as soon as possible.