Aren't dismissed charges automatically removed from my record?
One of the dangers of being charged with a crime in North Carolina is the fact that, even if the charges end up dismissed, they don’t automatically get erased from your criminal record. Many people believe that when their charges get dismissed that no one will be able to find out that they were charged in the first place. Well, that hasn’t been true in North Carolina, but it looks like that’s about to change.
Why do I need to expunge charges and convictions from my record?
Having charges, and especially convictions, on your record can have long term negative effects on your future job prospects. Getting an expungement can help alleviate some of those negative effects. An expungement has the effect of clearing the conviction (or dismissal) from your record. The problem is that you have to apply for it to get it removed. At least the was the problem until recently. As always, this post should not be considered legal advice. If you think you may need legal representation for pending charges or for information about getting an expungement, contact us.
North Carolina just recently passed Senate Bill 562: The Second Chance Act and there are three main changes that you should be aware of:
The first change is that, as of December 1, 2021, if you are found not guilty or your charge is dismissed, you will automatically receive an expungement of that charge. You never have to file anything yourself or hire an attorney. Effective December 1, 2020, the law also removed the requirement that you not have any felony convictions to be eligible for the dismissal expungement. Prosecutors are now authorized to submit their own requests rather than waiting for a citizen to submit a request. If you have petitioned for an expungement in the past, you know that this process can take up to a year and you usually will need to hire an attorney. This change provides a cost-effective way for eligible expungements to be handled in a timely fashion.
The second change relates to another recently enacted law raising the age for most juveniles to be prosecuted as adults in North Carolina. North Carolina was the last state to classify most 18-year-olds as adults when being charged and sentenced in the criminal justice system. For a very long time, if you were 16-year-olds, you would like be treated as an adult and be subject to the same adult courts. Under the Second Chance Act, a person who was under 18 at the time they committed the offense they were convicted of, they may now be eligible for an expungement as well.
The last major change is that you can now expunge multiple non-violent misdemeanor convictions. Prior to the enactment of this law, you were only able to apply for one expungement of one misdemeanor and only if you didn’t have any other felony or misdemeanor convictions. Now, under the new law, you can expunge multiple misdemeanor convictions if at least seven years have passed since the date of conviction of the offense you’re seeking to expunge. This is great news for all residents of North Carolina who happen to have more than one criminal conviction on their record!
So, who do I have to thank for these changes?
The law was a bipartisan resolution to help fix some of the criminal justice problems that have plagued North Carolina for decades. These changes are just a first step towards more extensive criminal justice reform the state has so desperately needed for so long. If you are interested in finding out if you’re eligible to have one or more of your convictions or dismissed charges expunged, contact us.