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N.C. “Second Chance Act” Gets Closer to Passing

UPDATED 6/18/2020 – Final language appears to be much better and there are now some great changes in here. Senate and House have passed the final version and it is heading to the Governor’s desk. Our blog post has been updated to reflect the final language.

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There have not been many big changes in expunction law in North Carolina over the last couple years. A new law, dubbed the Second Chance Act, appears to be nearing and plans to shake up the current state of expunction laws in North Carolina. This law appears to have some great benefits by expanding expunction of dismissed charges and broadening the available expunctions for convictions.

Senate Bill 562 was first filed on April 2, 2019. Over a year later it has now undergone numerous modifications as it has made its way through the General Assembly. The NC House passed the current version by a vote of 119-0 on June 10, 2020 and on June 11, 2020 it was sent back to the Senate. The Senate has now approved the bill and it has been sent to Governor Cooper to be signed. The bill would go into effect December 1, 2020.

NCGS 15A-145.5    – The Second Chance Act creates some big changes to the existing expunction for convictions for certain non-violent offenses. Under current law, you can expunge certain non-violent Class H or I felonies and/or non-violent misdemeanors so long as — 1) you have no had any other felony or misdemeanor convictions, 2) if you are trying to expunge multiple convictions, then those convictions had to have happened on the same day (related offenses), and 3) you have waited 5 years for misdemeanors and 10 years for felonies.

Senate Bill 562 now expands the ability to expunge misdemeanors from different occasions.  Senate Bill 562 would still allow expunction of multiple misdemeanors and felonies which occurred on the same day BUT would increase the wait period to expunge multiple misdemeanor convictions from 5 years to 7 years. Senate Bill 562 will no longer require the person not have any other convictions ever and instead will only require the person not have any new conviction during the 5, 7 or 10 year wait period.  The final changes and version of this bill are very promising and can potentially open up even more people to be eligible for expunction of old non-violent misdemeanor or felony charges!

NCGS 15A-146 – Perhaps the best change made by Senate Bill 562 is to expand access to expunctions for charges which were dismissed or there was a not guilty verdict. Previously, you could expunge an unlimited amount of these types of charges, BUT, you could not do such if you had ever been convicted of a felony, no matter how unrelated those charges were and regardless of the merits of the dismissed/not guilty charges. Senate Bill 562 appears to remove this bar for prior felony convictions and allow anyone to move to expunge charges which were dismissed/not guilty. Then, effective December 1, 2021, this process of expunging dismissed/not guilty charges would be automatic and not require filing petitions…but this automatic process would not apply to felony charges which were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

NCGS 15A-145.8 – Senate Bill 562 completely re-writes a prior expunction law aimed at juvenile records to coincide with the changes in North Carolina’s juvenile age laws which went into effect December 1, 2019. North Carolina was one of the final states to raise its age for juvenile court jurisdiction up to age 18 (for low level felonies and misdemeanors). New NCGS 15A-145.8 is aimed at expunging convictions received prior to December 1, 2019 by individuals who were under 18 but older than 16 at the time of the offense. Only Class H or I felonies and all misdemeanors can be expunged, but traffic matters (Chapter 20) and charges requiring sex offender registration are specifically excluded. A $175 filing fee will be required.

Unfortunately, this bill also expands access that prosecutors have to charges which have already been expunged and allows prosecutors to use expunged convictions when calculating prior record levels, even though those convictions are no longer a part of the person public criminal record.

As always, we will keep you updated of changes in North Carolina expunction laws. We have handled hundreds if not thousands of expunctions and are widely recognized for our abilities in this area. We would be happy to help you determine if you are eligible for an expunction and if so, to assist you in cleaning up your past records. If you think you are potentially eligible for an expunction, give us a call at 336-574-2788.