North Carolina's State Capitol Building

North Carolina's state Capitol building in Raleigh, N.C.

(The Center Square) – A North Carolina Senate committee has advanced a bill that would allow more offenses to be removed from a person's state criminal record.

Current law allows people to seek expungement for more than one nonviolent misdemeanor or for one nonviolent felony, with some exceptions. Senate Bill 301 would allow more felonies to qualify for expungement.

"Oftentimes in practices, what you would see is that someone that gets a felony normally, it's not one isolated felony," said Sen. Danny Earl Britt Jr., R-Columbus. "Oftentimes, it's a patch that they're going through. Maybe they have one felony and have a second felony three or four years later. Now they can't get either felony off their record, even if it's been 20-25 years later."

SB 301 would allow a person to petition the court to remove a second, nonviolent crime off their record once 20 years have passed since the conviction or sentence completion. It would change vehicle burglary's classification from a violent felony to a nonviolent felony, making it eligible for expungement.

"[Sen.] Kevin Corbin has a good constituent in his district ... who was convicted of [burglary] of a motor vehicle when he was 19 years old," Britt said. "He's a Rotarian and a business owner has not been charged with or convicted of anything since he was 19, but since that [burglary] of a motor vehicle is classified as a violent offense, that individual, who's now 42 years old, cannot get that expunction from a crime that was committed when he was 19."

The General Assembly passed and Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act in June. It allows certain juveniles to have offenses removed from their records and made it easier for adults to seek expungement. The bill received unanimous bipartisan support. Supporters of the Second Chance Act said it would remove economic barriers for about 800,000 people. SB 301 expands the reforms in the measure.

The law now allows only a prosecutor or the offender to petition the court to expunge a juvenile's record. SB 301 also would let a private or court-appointed attorney file the petition.

SB 301 received a favorable vote Tuesday from Senate Committee on Judiciary. It must be approved by a full vote in both chambers of the General Assembly before being sent to Cooper for final approval. The provisions in the bill take effect Dec. 1.

Staff Reporter

Nyamekye Daniel has been a journalist for four years. She was the managing editor for the South Florida Media Network and a staff writer for The Miami Times. Daniel's work has also appeared in the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and The New York Times.