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New law offers convicts a shot at clean record

 

Sheriff says he thinks N.C. law to expunge records is good idea

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON

Staff Writer

 

Thousands of convicts across the state now have a chance to have their criminal records expunged under a law that went into effect December 1, 2012, but a few stipulations are attached to the deal, according to the North Carolina Justice Center website.

The law only pertains to individuals who’ve committed nonviolent, low-level misdemeanor and felony offenses and served prison time at least 15 years ago.

More specifically, offenses eligible for removal from one’s criminal record include only class H and I felonies, as well as nearly all misdemeanors, except class A1 offenses.

Not all nonviolent crimes are included, since certain drug offenses were not incorporated in the legislation, such as heroin and methamphetamine abuse along with the sale and delivery of cocaine.

Any individual wishing to file a Petition and Order of Expunction form must have been a first-time offender with evidence of “good moral character” and societal contributions made during at least the last decade and a half since serving time, the release said.

Lincoln County Sheriff David Carpenter told the Times-News that the new North Carolina law, which went into effect Dec. 1, is “a very positive thing.”

With decades of law enforcement under his belt, Carpenter has witnessed numerous criminals mend their lives after going to jail.

“I have seen many times over the years where a person has changed his ways, and he has the right and need to be able to correct some things he may have done when he was younger,” Carpenter said.

Churches, citizens and a variety of organizations around the state teamed up with The N.C. Justice Center to create Second Chance Alliance and lobby for the new law, according to a Justice Center press release.

The group supports legislative tactics that “remove barriers” between people with a criminal history and their potential to showcase “productive citizenship,” the release said.

North Carolina isn’t the first state to pass a law promoting the reintegration of criminals back into society. A “handful” of others have passed similar laws.

According to the site, criminals face a 50 percent less chance of being hired by employers along with the hindrance of nearly 1,000 state and federal laws denying them certain privileges.

Based on similar laws across the nation, expunctions are approved between five and 10 years, the release said.

For more information, visit ncsecondchance.org.

“God gives us the opportunity to turn from our wicked ways,” Carpenter said, “and now the law gives us that same opportunity.”

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