Far too often, people’s lives are overshadowed by a single mistake in their past. New legislation in North Carolina, known as the Second Chance Act, will help people escape their past by clearing their criminal records.
The Second Chance Act enjoyed bipartisan support, so it passed the North Carolina House with a unanimous vote of approval. The goal of the Second Chance Act is to reduce the problems that many people with criminal records experience when they apply for job, try to get an education and look for housing.
Under the new rules, which go into effect July 1:
- Most misdemeanor and felony charges that were dismissed will be automatically expunged from someone’s history
- Charges for most misdemeanors and felonies that ended in an acquittal at trial will be automatically expunged.
- Numerous nonviolent felony or misdemeanor convictions, including some drug crimes, can be expunged if the defendant files the appropriate petition with the court.
- Most juvenile convictions for misdemeanors and felonies can be expunged.
When a criminal record is expunged, that individual can lawfully say that they’ve never been convicted of a crime. That includes when they apply for a job, applying for financial aid or are submitting to a background search. In addition, their records can be sealed so that prospective employers never know about their past.
The Second Chance Act is a welcome relief for many people, and it represents a step forward in criminal justice reform. Just the same, you shouldn’t take this as a sign that police or prosecutors in this state have “gone soft” on crime. If you’re charged with a drug offense or any other crime, take all the necessary steps to protect your legal rights.