Second Chance Act, which will open opportunities for those with criminal records, takes effect today

Major provisions of the transformative Second Chance Act, which breaks down barriers to jobs, housing, and more for those with criminal records, go into effect today. Nearly 1 in 4 North Carolinians has a criminal record; this landmark piece of bipartisan legislation will allow hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records to have their records expunged, thereby granting them access to opportunities they were previously denied.

“Those with criminal records can often face devastating collateral consequences. They may have difficulty securing employment or finding a place to live, making their reentry infinitely more difficult,” said Laura Holland, Staff Attorney for the Fair Chance Criminal Justice project at the North Carolina Justice Center. “The implementation of the Second Chance Act is an important step toward ending the exclusion of those with criminal records from their communities and could be life-changing for many North Carolinians.”

Hundreds of thousands of people will become eligible for expunction under the new law, including those with multiple misdemeanor convictions from seven or more years ago. Those with a felony conviction can now petition to expunge dismissed or ‘not guilty’ charges, and district attorneys can petition for expunction of dismissed and ‘not guilty’ charges on behalf of a person. On December 1, 2021, dismissed and not guilty charges will be expunged through an automated process. A provision that allows for the expunction of certain juvenile convictions obtained before December 1, 2019, is already in effect.

The law could be especially significant for Black people and other communities of color who are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system because of entrenched racism.

The Second Chance Act 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. Learn more about the act on their website.

Anyone who thinks they may be eligible for a record expunction under the Second Chance Act should download the 2020 Summary of NC Expunctions for guidance.

For more information on this topic, contact Laura Holland, Staff Attorney, Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project, [email protected] or Andrea Dreier, Communications Specialist, [email protected].

Andrea Dreier is a communications specialist with the North Carolina Justice Center (parent organization to NC Policy Watch)

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