Legislation supported by an unlikely alliance of progressive and conservative advocates moved one step closer to final passage this morning. The Second Chance Act, a bipartisan “clean slate” bill that would automatically expunge criminal charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty” after July 1, 2020, and allow individuals to petition for expungement of all nonviolent misdemeanor convictions after seven years of good behavior, won unanimous approval from the House Judiciary Committee. The measure, which passed the Senate unanimously in May, will now move on to the House Rules Committee for final review before heading to the House floor.
Today’s committee hearing on the bill highlighted what may well be an unprecedented coalition in recent years at the General Assembly. Supporters of the bill include such arch-conservative groups as Americans for Prosperity, ALEC Action, the NC Chamber and Koch Industries (which provided testimony at today’s hearing) as well as progressive groups like the North Carolina NAACP, the ACLU of North Carolina and the NC Justice Center (Policy Watch’s parent organization). The bill also won support from the state Conference of District Attorneys, which also voiced its support this morning.
While some committee members expressed concerns at today’s hearing about potential logistical demands that large numbers of expungement actions could place on clerks of court and other justice system officials, no one spoke against the objectives of the bill, which stands in marked, even stunning, contrast to the rhetoric of past years in which lawmakers of both political parties frequently competed to demonstrate who could be the “toughest on crime.”
The following description of the bill is from a fact sheet distributed by bill supporters:
HOW THE SECOND CHANCE ACT/SB 562 PROVIDES CLEAN SLATE RELIEF
- AUTOMATIC RELIEF. A misdemeanor or felony charge that is dismissed or disposed “not guilty” on or after July 1, 2020, will be automatically expunged. (Exception: a felony charge that is dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement that results in any conviction) Read more