Second Chance Act takes effect, gives North Carolinians hope for fresh start

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — On Tuesday, the Second Chance Act took effect in North Carolina that allows certain charges and convictions to be expunged from someone’s record.

The law sets up automatic expunctions for people who are found not guilty or have charges against them dismissed. It also allows people to petition for the expunction of a nonviolent misdemeanor and felony charges after a period of good behavior.

According to the act, you can file for an expunction of a misdemeanor five years after your conviction date and an expunction for a felony can be filed ten years after the conviction date.

If you want to file for multiple misdemeanor expunctions, you have to wait seven years after the last conviction date.

Attorney Daniel Meier tells CBS 17 that these criminal convictions can keep people from getting jobs years and even decades after they have served their time.

He said this law will help them move on with their lives.

“It allows people to not be tied down to their past,” Meier said. “One of our big problems is people in this country who have prior convictions have a hard time finding work. It should help level the playing field and doesn’t give employers an automatic disqualifier to basically close the door in their face before even meeting them.”

Lynn Burke is an attorney in the Triangle who has been waiting for years for the day when this law would take effect.

“I still can’t believe it’s here,” Burke said.

Burke got her license to practice law in Washington D.C., but she has not been able to get a North Carolina law license because of her criminal past from the 1980s.

“I had four children, my mother had just passed away, and she was the only person who was really helping me take care of them,” Burke said. “So I ended up going to prison because I got arrested for stealing food and clothing and things like that trying to keep my children from going to social services.”

She said she did her time in prison and was released in 1990. But after she got out, it was not easy for her to get back on her feet.

“It was really hard for me during that time to get a job,” Burke said.

She eventually found employment, went back to college, and got a law degree. But she said her dream now is to obtain her North Carolina law license to one day become a judge.

She said now with the Second Chance Act, this can finally become a reality.

“I applied before and they denied me based on my criminal record,” Burke said. “So when I get rid of this criminal record it will be expunged like it never happened now.”

Burke said today she has a message for other people whose criminal pasts have hindered their ability to move forward as well.

“Now there’s no excuses and people can go in there and fight for their lives and try to get a better life for them and their children,” Burke said. “You have the opportunity to be whatever you want to be and that’s so important I think.”

Right now people with not guilty and dismissed charges still have to petition for those to be removed from their criminal records. But in December 2021, dismissed and not guilty charges will be dismissed through an automated process.

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