RALEIGH (June 17) – Yesterday, the NC Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 562, the Second Chance Act, 47-0, after the bill passed the NC House by a vote of 119-0 last week. During its movement through several committees as well as debates on the House and Senate floors, not a single legislator voted against it. North Carolinians will now be able to expunge many criminal records that give rise to severe barriers to employment, housing, and other essential opportunities.
This transformative legislation was made possible by a broad range of stakeholders, especially people with criminal records, their family members, and other members of the NC Second Chance Alliance. For almost two years, these individuals have engaged with legislators at the General Assembly and in their communities, explaining their personal need for a second chance and urging policymakers to restore opportunities for prosperity.
The bipartisan “clean slate” Second Chance Act—which first passed the NC Senate on May 8, 2019, one day after more than 1,000 members of the NC Second Chance Alliance visited the NC Legislative Building—automatically expunges criminal charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty” after December 1, 2021. It also allows individuals to petition for expungement of all nonviolent misdemeanor convictions after seven years of good behavior as well as certain youthful felony and misdemeanor convictions. The bill’s primary sponsors are Senator Danny Britt, Senator Warren Daniel, and former Senator Floyd McKissick.
During a press conference on June 9, Senator McKissick described the Second Chance Act as the most progressive piece of criminal justice reform passed by the NC General Assembly in decades. During the same press conference, Senator Britt called the legislation “a jobs bill,” referencing its critical provisions that help eliminate the barrier to employment created by a criminal record. This relief is more crucial than ever in light of the need for race equity and high unemployment rates due to COVID-19.
The Second Chance Act provides clean slate relief through:
- AUTOMATIC RELIEF. Certain misdemeanor and felony charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty” on or after December 1, 2021, will be automatically expunged, so that individuals will not have to file expungement petitions with the court to remove certain dismissed charges from their record.
- PROVIDING EXPUNCTION RELIEF FOR CONVICTIONS OF OFFENSES TREATED AS JUVENILE OFFENSES UNDER RAISE THE AGE. A person or prosecutor will be able to petition for expunction of all misdemeanor and Class H or I felony convictions that occurred when a person was ages 16 or 17 and prior to Dec. 1, 2019 (the effective date of Raise the Age).
- ALLOWS ALL MISDEMEANOR AND FELONY CHARGES THAT HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE DISMISSED OR DISPOSED “NOT GUILTY” TO BE EXPUNGED BY PETITION. Eliminates the “felony disqualification” so that beginning December 1, 2020, a felony conviction will no longer disqualify a person from expunging dismissed and “not guilty” charges.
- PROSECUTOR-INITIATED RELIEF. A prosecutor may petition for expunction of dismissed charges and charges disposed “not guilty” and “Raise the Age” convictions.
- EXPANDING ELIGIBILITY TO MULTIPLE NONVIOLENT CONVICTIONS. A person may petition for expunction of multiple nonviolent misdemeanor convictions after 7 years of good behavior.
“Criminal records of all types, even dismissed charges, cause devastating ‘collateral consequences’ for many of the more than 2 million North Carolinians with criminal records,” said Daniel Bowes, director of the NC Justice Center’s Fair Chance-Criminal Justice Project. “People of color in North Carolina are far more likely to have criminal records due to inequitable policing and prosecution practices, and people of color with criminal records often face more severe barriers to reentry and opportunity.”
In North Carolina, the expunction of a criminal record returns an individual to the status he or she held before the charge or conviction occurred. Once expunged, an individual may truthfully deny the charge or conviction ever occurred in most circumstances. There are exceptions, including for purposes of federal immigration. The definitions of “nonviolent misdemeanor” and “nonviolent felony” are not changed by this bill. Expunged criminal records are not available to the public, but expunged dismissals and convictions can still be accessed by district attorneys and considered by courts for sentencing if the person re-offends.
For more information on the Second Chance Act and other criminal justice reforms proposed by members and partners of the NC Second Chance Alliance, please visit ncsecondchance.org.
The following groups supported the Second Chance Act:
ACLU of North Carolina
North Carolina Advocates for Justice
The American Conservative Union
Americans for Prosperity
Black Workers for Justice
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Community Success Initiative
Concerned Veterans for America
Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform
Disability Rights North Carolina
Faith & Freedom Coalition
National Association of Social Workers – North Carolina Chapter
North Carolina Chamber of Commerce
North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys
North Carolina Justice Center
North Carolina NAACP
North Carolina Second Chance Alliance
Right on Crime