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NC House Committee Votes To End Automatic Removal Of Some Criminal Records, Backtracking On Bipartisan 2020 Law

Source: The Associated Press

Four years ago, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bipartisan law to direct state officials to develop a process so that criminal charges that are dismissed or result in “not guilty” or “not responsible” findings are deleted from a person’s record without the need for a formal request.

The bill, passed in the summer of 2020, was part of a broader “second chance” movement in North Carolina and nationwide that aimed to help people avoid obstacles to obtaining employment or housing.

The automatic expunctions began in late 2021, and resulted in over a half-million record deletions in eight months, which was unfortunately an operational challenge for the court system to handle after being used to a much lower volume, petition-based process.

In response, the legislature suspended the automatic expunctions in August 2022 so that the operational problems could be studied and solutions could be proposed. Last year, the state Senate unanimously approved a bill that would fix the operational problems and restart the expunctions.

However, the state House never approved that bill and now the Republican-led House judiciary committee is seeking to end automatic expunctions altogether. 

Democratic Rep. Marcia Morey called the bill “abominable” and noted that the old petition process could take individuals a year or longer. “The solution is not to throw this out,” she said.

Criminal justice reform advocates are urging legislators to pass the 2023 Senate bill and make good on their promise from 2020 that records would be automatically removed.

This bill “would undo all of the hard work put in by legislators and many, many stakeholders to remove barriers a criminal record places on a person’s ability to integrate and participate in society,” said Reighlah Collins of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina.
The bill now goes to another committee in the House, before the full House and then the Senate, if approved.

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