Raleigh Lawyer Notes Changes to Expunction Laws in North Carolina

Howard Kurtz, a Raleigh lawyer at Kurtz & Blum, PLLC, notes that various changes have been made to North Carolina’s expunction laws. Expunction allows an individual to remove (expunge) a criminal charge from his or her state record, thereby removing the fear of a prospective employer taking that charge against the person. The Charlotte Observer details more on expunction in the state:

More than 1.5 million of North Carolina’s 9.5 million residents had a criminal record at the end of 2010, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. North Carolina saw a 30 percent increase in residents with criminal records between 2006 and 2008.

But from 2008 to 2010, the total fell by 1 percent as legislators increased the opportunities to erase old criminal records. Last year, lawmakers of both political parties agreed to broadly expand the opportunity for adults to erase, or expunge, first-time nonviolent misdemeanor crimes or low-level felony convictions.

Daniel Bowes, an attorney for the North Carolina Justice Center, says that the electronic age has turned criminal charges – even if dismissed – into virtual black marks. Given that many employers and landlords do background checks, they often find charges in individuals’ records. As a result, some may deny individuals with these black marks when they apply for rent or jobs.

It’s challenging enough that these individuals try to rent places to live or to find jobs to sustain themselves. Adding to the challenge are laws that keep these individuals from opportunities like occupational licenses and public benefits. Recognizing the possible contribution of these people to North Carolina, though, lawmakers have been introducing changes to expunction laws in recent years.

Among these changes are House Bill 1023, which removes records of non-violent felonies or misdemeanor convictions; House Bill 801, which expunges dismissed charges or findings of not guilty; and Senate Bill 91, which prohibits asking for expunged criminal convictions for the purpose of employment. All three bills have been signed by the Governor and took effect this year.

Kurtz reminds individuals, however, that expunctions can take from six to nine months to fully process in North Carolina. For anyone who has a criminal charge in his or her record, Kurtz recommends that the person consult a criminal defense attorney right away.

(Info from N.C. expanding rules for erasing criminal records, The Charlotte Observer, August 25, 2013)