Attorney J. Bradley Smith answering the question: “A past conviction is keeping me from finding work what can I do?”
In a shocking statistic that would likely stun most North Carolinians, 1.5 million out of the state’s 9.5 million residents had a criminal record at the end of 2010. Even more amazing is that according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, North Carolina saw a 30 percent increase in the number of residents with criminal records between 2006 and 2008.
Thankfully, recent reforms have helped stem the rising tide, and between 2008 and 2010 the total number of people with criminal records actually fell by one percent. How does that happen? Thanks to efforts by lawmakers to create new ways for people to erase and expunge their old criminal records. Recent efforts which allow adults to expunge first-time nonviolent misdemeanor crimes or low-level felony convictions have helped allow some people to clear their records and pave the way for a better future.
The recent push to allow for expungement of old criminal records is based on the understanding that even old convictions or charges can seriously harm an individual’s ability to be successful. After the recession began, hiring became a much more difficult process and many people discovered that even convictions from decades ago were enough to cause them to lose job opportunities. Given the ease of conducting criminal background checks, almost all employers and landlords are finding out about previous legal trouble. Rather than only deny those who recently committed violent felonies, these landlords and bosses are denying people with decades-old arrests on their records. Beyond lost jobs and difficulty securing housing, criminal records can also lead to the loss of public benefits, state license and can even interfere with child custody cases.
Lawmakers recognized that continuing to punish people for incidents that took place long ago was serving no legitimate purpose and actually held back large groups of people from making economic gains. Last year lawmakers passed a law that allows first-time, nonviolent offenders who were convicted of misdemeanors or low-level felonies to have their records erased after 15 years. These people must be able to demonstrate a “good moral character” and years of good behavior. The law also allows those people who were charged but never convicted of crimes to have their records expunged.
Just this year the state’s General Assembly passed a law that prevented employers and schools from asking applicants to provide information about arrests or criminal charges that had been expunged. The hope is that lawmakers continue to make it easier for people who have long since paid their debts to society to move forward and build new, more productive lives without the burden of a criminal record hanging over their heads.
Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a Charlotte based criminal defense, traffic violation defense and civil litigation law firm servicing Charlotte and the surrounding area. If you or someone you know need legal assistance, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828.
About the Author:
Brad Smith is a Managing Member with Arnold & Smith, PLLC where he focuses on the areas of criminal defense, DUI / DWI defense and traffic defense. Mr. Smith began his legal career in Charlotte, North Carolina as an Assistant District Attorney. In 2006, he entered private practice focusing almost entirely on criminal defense.
Born and raised in Charlotte, Mr. Smith is married with one son and one daughter. In his free time, he enjoys traveling, boating, golf and hiking near his mountain home in western North Carolina.
“North Carolina expanding rules for erasing criminal records,” by Emery Dalesio, published at WTVD.com.
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