16- and 17-year-old Nonviolent Felons Eligible for Expungements, P 2 - Sparrow Law Firm

We were talking about a new law in North Carolina that will allow 16- and 17-year-olds to ask the courts to have their criminal records expunged. The crimes in question must be nonviolent felonies. Violent crimes will stay on their records.

The new law only applies to teens who are convicted and who have no prior felony convictions or expungements.

Under current law, an acquittal or dismissal earns the automatic right to apply for an expungement. Also eligible are a teen convicted of a misdemeanor and anyone under 20 convicted of one of a short list of alcohol-related offenses. (The application is available at the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where the charges were filed.)

In those cases, the judge has no discretion. Applicants charged with one of the felonies listed in the new law, however, will face a judge’s scrutiny.

As we mentioned in our last post, the law was prompted, in part, by growing concern that young adults are having a hard time finding work because a criminal background check reveals a minor, youthful offense. A college drinking and driving charge, for example, will usually earn the teenager mandatory drug and alcohol education. If the program is completed, the argument goes, the record should be wiped clean.

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, these cases certainly exist, but the young man charged with sexual assault is also eligible if the charges are dismissed or if a jury finds him not guilty.

Between 2007 and 2009, the News & Observer says, Wake County judges granted the expungement applications of 4,530 defendants. Almost 60 percent of those were granted to applicants who were not yet 21 at the time of their arrest. The most common crime in these records was grand larceny.

The new law goes into effect December 1, 2011.

Source: News & Observer, “More getting a clean slate,” Mandy Locke and David Raynor, 06/26/2011