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Lawmakers enable easier criminal record expunctions

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A bill that would change the way expunctions are granted has passed the North Carolina General Assembly and is on Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk.

Expunction is a legal process to remove certain offenses from a person’s criminal record.

Removal will now be permitted for charges that had been brought and subsequently dismissed or charges in which a finding of not guilty was made.

Expunctions can also be used to remove criminal convictions from a person’s record.

“This bill will provide a meaningful second chance to many first-time offenders who now find it difficult to seek employment or to gain admission to colleges and universities by virtue of a mistake that they might have made as a youthful offender and for which they have paid their debts to society,” Farmer-Butterfield said in a release.

Senate Bill 445, which was ratified by the Senate June 27, is an act to standardize the filing procedures for expunction, to authorize prosecutors access to certain records of expunction, to allow certain expunged criminal acts to be considered in calculating prior record levels during sentencing for subsequent offenses and to make other modifications to the expunction process.

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, and Rep. Jean Farmer-Butterfield, D-Wilson, were co-sponsors of the legislation.

Sen. Tommy Tucker, R-Union, was the primary sponsor of the Senate version of the bill. Reps. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, Sarah Stevens, R-Surry, Rep. Chuck McGrady, R-Henderson, and Rep. Robert T. Reives, D-Lee, filed the companion bill in the House.

Sen. Rick Horner, R-Wilson, and Rep. Susan Martin, R-Wilson, had excused absences and did not vote on the bill.

Under current state law, people are only granted one expunction during their lifetime.

This bill, however, would permit more than one expunction if the charge brought against them is dismissed or if that charge results in a finding or verdict of not guilty.

The bill would also reduce the amount of time first offenders convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors have to wait before seeking an expunction from 15 to five years following the conviction.

“If a first-time convicted offender subsequently was charged and convicted of another crime, then a district attorney would be able to take the charge for which they received an expunction under consideration in sentencing that individual for the second offense,” according to a news release release detailing the bill.

“This bill received the support of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys as well as the N.C. Second Chance Alliance since it will allow people who deserve a second chance an opportunity to turn their lives around,” said Farmer-Butterfield. “I would like to thank Senator Tucker, Senator Bryant, former Rep. Leo Daughtry as well as all of my colleagues in the N.C. House who sponsored this bill. I would also like to thank all my constituents as well as persons from across our state who contacted me to voice their support for this bill.”

The bill will have to be signed by the governor in order to be enacted.

NEW CRIMINAL LAWS

Recently enacted North Carolina statutes concerning criminal law include:

• S.L. 2017-69 (SB 326) — Misrepresentation offenses in connection with automobile insurance. The law makes it a misdemeanor to present false or misleading information in support of an application for automobile insurance.

• S.L. 2017 77 (SB 217) — Discharging a firearm or bow and arrow from right of way in Richmond County. The local law makes it a misdemeanor to discharge a firearm or bow and arrow from, on, across or over the roadway or right-of-way in Richmond County except on unpaved roads with the Wildlife Resources Commission’s Sandhills Game Land.

• S.L. 2017-87 (SB 155) — Changes to Alcohol Beverage Control laws. The laws loosens a wide variety of restrictions on liquors, wines and malt beverages. Among the provisions is allowing free wine-tastings at farmers markets.

• S.L. 2017-89 (HB 98) — Intentional injury to or interference with firefighting and emergency medical services equipment. The law makes it a misdemeanor to injure, destroy, remove, vandalize, tamper with or interfere with the operation of fire apparatus and emergency medical services vehicles.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 265-7818

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