NC House intends to vote on Second Chance Act during April session

Capitol Report

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – When lawmakers return to Raleigh in April, they could make a major change to the state’s criminal justice laws. Bipartisan support has grown for a bill known as the Second Chance Act.

Last May, the Senate unanimously passed S.B. 562, which was sponsored by a bipartisan group of legislators. It would set up for automatic expunction for people who are found not guilty or have charges against them dismissed after July 1, 2020.

It also would allow people to petition for the expunction of nonviolent misdemeanor and felony charges after a period of good behavior.

People would “be permitted to petition the court for multiple expunctions after a seven year waiting period as long as it has been at least 10 years since their last felony conviction or at least five years since their last misdemeanor conviction,” the Senate’s bill sponsors explained in a news release.

They also noted 16- and 17-year-olds convicted before the Raise the Age legislation went into effect would be eligible for expunctions.

Under the bill, DWIs are not eligible for expunction.

After the Senate passed the bill, two House committees approved it, but it never got a vote in the House.

Speaker Tim Moore (R) said earlier in the week he intends for that to happen during the General Assembly’s short session, which begins April 28.

In an email statement to CBS 17, he said: “I am confident the House will reach agreement on the Second Chance Act after further consideration and refinement of S.B. 562 in the short session, and look forward to enacting another historic criminal justice reform that will join the Justice Reinvestment Act, Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction, strengthening victims’ rights, addressing the sexual assault kit backlog, and increasing penalties for assaulting law enforcement, as a significant policy accomplishment by the General Assembly to improve public safety laws in North Carolina.”

Lynn Burke is one of the people who has pushed for the law to pass. She was released from prison in 1990 after stealing and writing bad checks. Since her release, she went to law school and obtained a license to practice in Washington, D.C., which allows her to practice immigration law in North Carolina. She’s been unable to obtain a North Carolina law license.

“With the law, you’re supposed to believe people can change,” she said. “One thing I learned too in this whole process is about hope.”

She tearfully recalled the moment the Senate passed the bill last year, saying it gave her hope.

“Wow, can you imagine having everything open, that you could do whatever you want? What’s that like? We don’t know what that’s like because we’ve always got this thing behind us that’s always sitting there all the time,” she said.

Earlier this week, a poll by Conservatives for Criminal Justice Reform showed more than 80 percent of people polled support the various provisions of the Second Chance Act. To see more on that poll, click here.

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