Commentary

In rare bright spot, Senate advances bipartisan “second chance” legislation

It’s been a mostly grim week at the North Carolina General Assembly, but there was one rare, important and praiseworthy moment yesterday in the state Senate. By a vote of 47-2, Senators approved Senate Bill 445, a proposal to dramatically improve state law surrounding the clean-up of criminal records. As we reported a couple of weeks back, the bill would would reduce the wait time for “expunction” of certain convictions and charges.

Specific changes include:

  • Reducing the wait time for expunction of a first-time nonviolent felony from 15 years to 10 years,
  • Reducing the wait time for expunction of a first-time nonviolent misdemeanor from 15 years to 5 years,
  • Providing for expunction of all dismissed and “not guilty” charges if the person has not been convicted of a felony,
  • Providing prosecutors electronic access to records expunged on or after 12/1/17,
  • Treating a conviction expunged on or after 12/1/17 as a prior record if the person re-offends, and
  • Establishing a uniform procedure for filing of expunction petitions.

This is important and impactful legislation that will make a real difference in the lives of thousands of North Carolinians who have either paid their debts to society and turned around their lives (or who were wrongfully accused of crimes in the first place), and who have found themselves blocked from carrying on as productive citizens. The sponsors of the bill — Senators Tommy Tucker, Angela Bryant and Floyd McKissick (as well as the Senate leadership and the second chance advocacy community) —  deserve credit for working to produce this bill and move it forward. Let’s hope the House takes up the proposal in short order and sends it to Governor Cooper ASAP.

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