MEDIA RELEASE: Historic bill first to provide broad expungement opportunities to individuals convicted for crimes as adults

RALEIGH (July 5, 2012) – The North Carolina General Assembly made a significant step this week in improving the lives of individuals who have long since paid their debts to society.

Legislators passed House Bill 1023 on Monday, which allows for expunctions of first-time nonviolent misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions 15 years after an individual has fully completed his or her sentence. If eligible, an individual must demonstrate he or she possesses good moral character and has been on good behavior throughout the 15-year waiting period. The bill is meant to benefit those who have long demonstrated a sincere dedication to good through their upstanding behavior, but are still being denied opportunities to reintegrate with and contribute to their communities.

The bill will soon become law with the expected signature of Governor Perdue. As the first law in North Carolina to provide general expungement opportunities to individuals convicted as adults, it is a positive step forward and will provide relief to tens of thousands of eligible individuals.

“This bill is a measured but historic response to the heavy burden of collateral consequences weighing down the 1.6 million North Carolinians with criminal records—consequences that often follow individuals throughout their personal and professional lives and can have a more devastating effect than their actual criminal punishments,” said Daniel Bowes, a staff attorney with the North Carolina Justice Center’s Collateral Consequences Initiative. “Although this bill is not perfect, it will make a huge difference in the lives of tens of thousands of eligible individuals across the state.”

With passage of this bill into law, North Carolina would become one of a handful of states providing relief to individuals with nonviolent misdemeanor and felony convictions.

“This bill’s passage demonstrates that North Carolina’s lawmakers are beginning to recognize that by perpetually isolating individuals from gainful employment, affordable housing, and community supports, the collateral consequences triggered by criminal convictions are barriers to reentry and doing more harm than good,” Bowes said.

The NC Justice Center is part of the Second Chance Alliance, a statewide alliance of advocacy organizations, service providers, faith-based organizations, community leaders and directly-impacted citizens that aims to achieve the safe and successful reintegration of adults and juveniles with criminal records by promoting policies that remove barriers to productive citizenship. The alliance was critical in speaking out in support of the legislation.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Daniel Bowes, Staff Attorney, danielb@ncjustice.org, 919.861.2061; Julia Hawes, Communications Associate, julia@ncjustice.org, 919.863.2406. Visit the Second Chance Alliance website at ncsecondchance.org.