North Carolina enacts Second Chance Act

CCRC Board member John Rubin of the University of North Carolina faculty has provided us with a detailed account of NC’s brand new Second Chance Act, and we are pleased to post it below.  We are particularly pleased to see North Carolina join the 13 other states that have enacted automatic record relief for dismissals and acquittals, and remove its prior felony bar to eligibility.  It appears that only a handful of states still retain this unfortunate provision, including Rhode Island, Oklahoma, and West Virginia.  We look forward to studying the new law in detail, and will shortly incorporate its provisions into the NC profile and 50-state charts from the Restoration of Rights Project.

We are also pleased to introduce our new 50-state chart on “Process for expunging or sealing non-convictions,” which indicates that there are now a total of 20 states that deliver relief for dismissals and acquittals that is either automatic or expedited at time of disposition.  At least half of these laws have been enacted in the past two years.  But there are still 24 states and D.C. that require people to file petitions, satisfy complex eligibility requirements, and jump through a variety of procedural hoops to limit public access to these records, and one state (Arizona) and the federal system offer no relief at all.  There is no excuse for allowing these records to remain publicly available and the source of discrimination, when the government was unwilling or unable to prosecute their charges to conviction.  We will continue to work for reforms based on the Model Law on Non-Conviction Records, and are happy to offer advice and assistance to any jurisdiction that decides to take on these issues.

A Second Chance in North Carolina Through Expanded Record Clearance
John Rubin
© UNC School of Government

North Carolina continues to make gradual strides in helping people clear their criminal records and enhance their opportunities going forward. Last week the Governor signed the Second Chance Act, S.L. 2020-35 (S 562), which passed the General Assembly unanimously. The Second Chance Act expands expunction opportunities and streamlines the process for people trying to clear their records. The product of negotiation and compromise, it reflects the interests of prosecutors, law enforcement, and court administrators as well. The act illustrates many of the record clearance issues being considered around the country, including automatic expunction of nonconviction records (to begin in North Carolina at the end of 2021), removal of barriers to expunctions of nonconviction records (most notably, no longer will prior convictions, whether for a felony or misdemeanor, be a bar), somewhat greater opportunities to expunge older convictions if “nonviolent,” and greater access by prosecutors and law enforcement to expunged case information. This summary does not try to explore the many nooks and crannies in the legislation. It is a first pass at describing the changes. Read more

Second chance employment bill approved in West Virginia

CARDINAL_ownby1High drama on the final day of the West Virginia legislative session produced a last minute compromise between House and Senate over SB76, the WV Second Chance for Employment Act.  If the governor signs the bill into law, individuals convicted of non-violent felonies will be able to return to court after 10 years to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors. [NOTE: The bill was signed into law on April 25.]

For several years the WV legislature has been considering how to improve employment opportunities for people with non-violent convictions, but the House and Senate had different ideas about how to do it.  The Senate approach would have expanded the state’s expungement law, which now applies only to youthful misdemeanors, while the House preferred reducing nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors.   As the seconds ticked toward midnight on April 8, the Senate agreed to accept the “forgiving” approach favored by the House, creating a new category of “reduced misdemeanor” that need not be reported on employment applications but will be reflected in background investigations.

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