Second Chance Law Paused in North Carolina

September 12, 2023

In 2020, North Carolina passed a Second Chance Law to help people with criminal records. This law would provide better opportunities for employment, education, and housing for the impacted individuals.

In December 2021, the Second Chance Law automatically expunged the criminal records of those with cases dismissed by a prosecutor. However, North Carolina has paused the process twice since starting. Attorneys and lawmakers have emphasized that delaying the law’s implementation is crucial.

The Challenge

They explained that the system will struggle to handle all the cases because there are too many. The volume would slow the process and make it challenging to notify law enforcement. As a result, the other agencies who must know about each expungement would also receive delayed notification, further complicating the process.

Before the state passed the Second Chance Law, individuals wishing to expunge their dismissed cases could petition the court and pay associated fees. The Second Chance Law’s implementation changed this by automating expungements, freeing individuals from the lengthy and costly process. This change led to a significant increase in expungements. The growth made it necessary to notify impacted agencies of the expungements as they happened.

The Need for Change

The representative for the 24th district of North Carolina, Senator Britt, expressed a need for change the first time the state paused the law. When the automatic expungement system took effect, he noted that many courthouses promptly destroyed records. These records included the electronic and paper records of an individual’s charges, including their expungement. 

This action negatively impacted individuals despite receiving expungements. Unfortunately, destroying these records meant affected parties could not prove the courts expunged their cases. As such, the law fell short of its purpose. It could not help these people improve their lives when no one could produce proof of expungements.

The Result

As a result, Senator Brit and other lawmakers proposed a new system. They suggested keeping the proof of expungement in a system that specific parties could access. For example, someone wanting evidence of their expunged cases could request the information from the system.

Though pausing the Second Chance Law again gives officials more time to improve the law’s functionality, many have voiced concerns. Some have commented on how putting the law on hold affects those still waiting for expungements. For example, this delay impacts those struggling to obtain jobs, housing, and education due to their criminal histories.

Employers should prepare for when the Second Chance Law resumes effect. They can do this by ensuring their background screening policies currently or will comply. The best way to start is by partnering with a trustworthy background check company. The right provider will use their experience to provide timely and accurate reports.

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