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The NC Second Chance Act explained

NC Justice Building, downtown Raleigh

Last week, in a rare unanimous and bipartisan vote (119-0), the NC General Assembly passed the Second Chance Act, which Governor Roy Cooper signed into law on June 25.

This piece of legislation is aimed at reducing unemployment barriers for individuals who have a criminal record of non-violent misdemeanors or dropped charges.

Studies have shown that employers have a dim view of job applicants with criminal backgrounds, even when those backgrounds include minor non-violent offenses — e.g. possession of a small amount of marijuana or bouncing a check at the grocery store — or even charges that were dismissed.  

Campbell Law professor Ashley Campbell with Dennis Gaddy, executive director of Community Success Initiative and a leader behind the NC Second Chance Act

A survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management in 2012 indicated that employers perform criminal record background checks for nearly 70% of all job applicants.  And 73% of the employers surveyed said a non-violent misdemeanor conviction was “very influential” or “somewhat influential” in the employer’s decision to hire the applicant.  Even in cases where charges were dismissed — which indicates the applicant was never judged to be guilty of any offense — employers found the charge alone to be influential in the hiring decision at least 30% of the time.

The result? People who have been previously involved with the criminal justice system have a difficult time finding a job, renting an apartment + getting loans for school or to start a business. The Second Chance Act aims to change that.

Under the new law, certain misdemeanor and felony charges that are dismissed or found “not guilty” after December 2021 will automatically be expunged (a.k.a. removed) from a person’s criminal record. Additionally, multiple non-violent misdemeanor convictions can be expunged after seven years of good behavior. The Second Chance Act also closes a loophole left from the successful “Raise the Age” efforts several years agojuveniles convicted as adults under the former law will now be able to expunge misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions that occurred when those individuals were 16 or 17 years old. To read the complete provisions of the new law, click here

Ashley H. Campbell is a Campbell University law professor + director of the Blanchard Community Law Clinic, which provides pro bono legal services to low-income individuals. Today, she’s explaining the purpose of the Second Chance Act.