North Carolina’s “Second Chance Act”

An old charge for disorderly conduct or other minor offense that’s dismissed can keep you from getting a job, into college, or the military. Even though it was dismissed, it keeps showing up in background checks for years. You explain it, but not everyone believes you.

It’s estimated that one in four residents of North Carolina has past criminal records that have long-term consequences. This includes arrests that ended in the dismissal of charges, “not guilty” verdicts, or was for nonviolent misdemeanor convictions. Even if dismissed, they show up in background checks for things like military enlistment, college educations, and employment. In many cases, having a “record” can prevent a person from pursuing a range of opportunities.

We’ve mentioned the topic of expungement in our blog last August. In fact, under some circumstances, it’s already available Since then, North Carolina has passed a new law that expands expungement in the state. The new law makes it easier to expunge if you have one of these low-level charges and other entries that give you a lasting criminal record.

Second Chance Act, SB 562

Passed unanimously by the NC General Assembly in June of 2020 and signed into law by Governor Ray Cooper, the Second Chance Act became effective on December 1, 2020. It’s also been nicknamed the “clean slate” bill.

 North Carolina’s New "Second Chance Act" For Drug OffensesAnyone wishing to request an expungement must do so by filing a petition since it is not automatic. The new law allows for the expunction (also called “expungement”) for:

  • Some juvenile convictions, misdemeanors, or a Class H or I felony
  • Nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions
  • Acquittals and dismissed charges

You can be granted an expungement if:

  • You haven’t been convicted of any misdemeanors or felonies during the required five- to ten-year period
  • You have shown good moral character
  • You’ve not been granted a previous expunction for a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony
  • You have no:
    • Outstanding warrants
    • Obligations
    • Restitutions
    • Pending criminal cases

Exceptions

However, there are some exceptions under the Second Chance act, including:

  • Class A1 misdemeanors
  • Felonies that are Class A through G
  • Any offenses that include sexual assault
  • Any offenses that require sex offender registration
  • Specific sex-related and stalking offenses
  • Felony possession with intent to sell or deliver:
    • Heroin
    • Cocaine
    • Methamphetamines
  • Any offense that involves driving while impaired

Convictions such as these are not eligible for expunction.

In the future, new dismissed charges and acquittals will be automatically expunged from records as a matter of course, except for motor vehicle violations. This provision becomes effective on December 1, 2021.

For North Carolina Drug Offenses

Those with non-violent drug trafficking charges are also eligible to petition the court for dismissal of their previous record. This includes all lower-level criminal convictions, dismissed charges, and verdicts of “not guilty.”

But in North Carolina, drug trafficking comes with mandatory prison sentences, and a conviction makes it difficult to get out.

An additional new law, called the “First Step Act” allows a judge to deviate from standard long prison sentences and high fines if:

  • The individual has avoided any violent activity
  • Admits to having a drug problem
  • Is not a repeat offender

The idea is to help those with addiction seek out treatment, rather than languish in prison with long sentences. The judge will have to see certain findings and has the discretion to give a shorter sentence if these conditions are met.

Additionally, those convicted of drug trafficking prior to December 1, 2020, can request for a judge to retroactively ease their punishment.

How To Get A Second Chance

Because these expungements are not yet automatic, you’ll have to file the petition yourself with the help of a criminal defense attorney. The petition requests that the judge grant your expunction, and your record will be erased for that charge or incident.

While you can file the petition on your own, it’s best to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney who will review your case and advise you on the best course of action.

Note that while expunged criminal records aren’t available to the public, expunctions can still be accessed by law enforcement and courts if there is a new offense or conviction.

Take Advantage Of The Second Chance Act

Old charges don’t disappear from our record, nor do dismissals and acquittals. You have to take action to make it happen. Let Dewey P. Brinkley help you get your Second Chance so you can move on from past Noth Carolina drug offenses.

Dewey P. Brinkley has defended thousands of clients against various criminal charges and helped many with the expunction of a long-ago minor criminal record.  Contact our Raleigh law office today at (919) 832-0307 (or use our online contact form) for a free consultation. You can also email us at dewey@deweybrinkleylaw.com.

 

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