An unwitting North Carolina teenager’s errand to get gas recently turned into a three-day jail stint. His crime? There wasn’t one; he was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The teenager suddenly found himself being rounded up with a group of people, having his mug shot taken and spending several days in jail. Although the 18-year-old’s experience in jail was “tough,” as he described it, his family and friends rallied around him.
Police had been searching for the perpetrators of a series of break-ins. They believed that a black SUV was connected to those crimes. When they saw an SUV they thought was involved, they chased it. The pursuit led them to the teenager’s neighborhood.
A highway patrol trooper and a police officer both observed the teenager run into his home, and one believed the teenager had jumped out of the pursued vehicle. No other evidence connected the teenager to the crime — neither DNA nor video surveillance nor fingerprints.
Police were later able to identify a clear image of the true suspect, and the trooper admitted to misidentifying the teenager. The police say they accelerated their evidence-gathering in order to determine if they had arrested the wrong person. The teenager is now free, and his ankle-monitoring bracelet has been removed. Law enforcement officials are working with prosecutors to dismiss and expunge the charges.
Although the officials involved in this arrest are proactively working to clear the teenager’s record, not everyone who is charged with a crime and later has the charge dropped is so lucky. But North Carolina law does offer options for people wishing to pursue expungement.
Expungement of North Carolina criminal records
When charges are dropped, a criminal case is dropped or a defendant is found not guilty, certainly the sense of relief is palpable, and the defendant will want to leave the episode behind. What he or she may not realize, however, is that the public record still contains information about the charges.
It is possible to apply for expungement, also known as expunction, of the criminal record. If the former defendant has not had an expungement before and has not been convicted of a felony, expungement may be an option.
People who were convicted of misdemeanors before they turned 18 years old, or of alcohol possession before they were 21 years old, can also apply for expungement of their records.
Once the expungement occurs, the incident is for most purposes erased. Applications for employment and housing should not turn up evidence of the charges. Even if the person whose record has been expunged is asked about criminal history, the person does not have to reveal information that has been erased from the record. A law going into effect on Dec. 1 will prevent prospective employers from asking applicants about expunged arrests, charges or convictions.
In the above case, the teenager was both unlucky and lucky: He was arrested even though he was an innocent bystander, but the police and prosecutors are working to right the wrong. Others who wish to set their own records straight may have options, too.
To learn more about gaining a clean record via expungement, please visit our website.
Source: WBTV.com, “Police: Teen misidentified in crime spree arrests, charges to be dropped,” Chris Dyches, Oct. 2, 2013