Raleigh, N.C. — Some people convicted of crimes in North Carolina will soon find it easier to clear their records.
Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday signed into a law a measure that changes the process by which criminal records are expunged. The new law, which takes effect in December, standardizes the petition people seeking expungement must file, reduces the waiting time for expungement of a first-time nonviolent felony from 15 years to 10 years and to five years for a nonviolent misdemeanor and eliminates a restriction on someone obtaining multiple expungements if prior charges were dismissed or the person was acquitted in court.
Cooper said giving people a second chance at a clean slate would bring people back into society and keep them out of trouble. When people leave prison, he noted, they often have lingering legal problems, and their time behind bars also makes it difficult to obtain a job, a place to live and a driver's license.
"The criminal justice system should not end in incarceration. It should end in restoration," he said. "This effort helps them lead productive lives, which is the right and moral thing to do. But at the same time, it's the safe thing to do for our community."
Cooper also signed a proclamation celebrating a bipartisan effort in the legislature to raise the minimum age to be prosecuted as a adult for misdemeanors and some felonies.
North Carolina is the last state to automatically try 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Under a law passed this year that takes effect in December 2019, only teens charged with violent felonies will be tried as adults, and all other criminal cases involving 16- and 17-year-olds will be shifted to juvenile courts.