An Overview of the North Carolina “Second Chance Act”

After unanimously passing in the North Carolina House and then the Senate, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 562 – otherwise known as the “Second Chance Act” – into law. The Second Chance Act has also been referred to as the “clean slate bill,” as it allows people who were charged with or committed certain non-violent crimes to have their records expunged. 

What Does the Second Chance Act Do?

Generally speaking, the Second Chance Act allows many North Carolinians to expunge their criminal records. More specifically, the law provides for:

  • Automatic Relief for Certain Charges: On or after December 1, 2021, certain misdemeanor and felony charges that are dismissed or result in “not guilty” will be automatically expunged from a person’s record. Before this law, a person had to file a petition with the court to remove dismissed charges from their record, which will now happen automatically. 
  • Expunction for Juvenile Offenses: A person can now petition for expunction for any misdemeanor, Class H, or Class I felony convictions that occurred before December 1, 2019, and when a person was sixteen-years-old or seventeen-years-old. 
  • Petition to Expunge Dismissed or “Not Guilty” Charges: Beginning on December 1, 2020, any misdemeanor or felony charges that were dismissed or disposed of as “not guilty” can be petitioned to be expunged. Prior to this law’s passage, a felony conviction would have disqualified a person from expunging such records.
  • Prosecutor-Petitioned Relief: A prosecutor may petition to expunge dismissed charges and “not guilty” charges, as well as “Raise the Age” convictions. 
  • Expansion of Eligibility for Expungement: A person may now petition to expunge multiple non-violent misdemeanor convictions after seven years of good behavior. 

Unless the charges fall into the category of automatic expunction, a person must file a petition to expunge his or her record and pay a $175 fee. The person’s record will then be expunged if he or she has gone a certain time (depending on the original crime) without any new charges, have served their sentences, and have paid any fines associated with the original crime.

Why Is the Second Chance Act So Important?

A criminal record is often a barrier to employment, housing, and more. With this new law, North Carolinians who have paid their dues, done their time, and reformed their lives will have the chance to live their lives the same as if they had never been charged or convicted of a crime. As one state senator put it, this is a “jobs bill,” as it eliminates one of the major barriers – a criminal record – many people face when searching for a job. 

If you think you are a candidate for expunction under the new law, contact Cotten Law. Jeremy has represented tens of thousands of clients and has hundreds of stellar reviews online. Our offices serve clients in central North Carolinaincluding Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. 

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