Criminal justice reform is a hot topic across the United States, with many states taking steps to lower the impact of past convictions for lower-level and nonviolent drug offenders. In North Carolina, the “Second Chance Act” and the “First Step Act” recently passed, joining several other laws passed since 2019 aimed at criminal justice reform. Individuals convicted of a nonviolent crime, or those awaiting trial, should be aware of how these new criminal justice laws may impact them.
The “First Step Act” gives judges a way to overrule long sentences and large fines in drug-trafficking convictions, provided the meeting of some conditions. These conditions include a nonviolent record, no repeat offenses and the admittance of a drug addiction problem. The law aims to help those who abuse substances access rehabilitation and treatment more easily.
The “Second Chance Act” aims to help people clear their criminal records. Specifically, the law targets individuals with lower-level convictions, as well as those with charges dismissed or those who found “not guilty.” The law, in combination with other expunction laws, is meant to help people have smaller offenses removed from their records so they do not show up in background checks for housing or jobs. One new aspect of this particular law is that a person with more than one nonviolent misdemeanor can petition to have all charges removed after seven years.
These new criminal justice laws may cause some individuals to wonder whether they could pursue certain legal avenues. For example, it could be a good time to look into having misdemeanors removed from a record. There may also be implications for those awaiting trial on drug trafficking charges. To understand how these laws may impact a particular case, it is a good idea to speak with a North Carolina criminal defense lawyer.