A felony conviction can drastically alter the course of a person’s life. Aside from the punitive aspects associated with the conviction; jail time, probation, community service, curfew, drug treatment etc., felony convictions also carry equally as impactful collateral consequences. Collateral consequences are civil punishments that are triggered by a felony conviction and often impact a person’s life for many years after the criminal punishment has been served. Collateral consequences can include inability to lawfully possess a firearm, loss of hunting, business or driver’s license, eviction from certain housing, loss of public benefits and even loss of employment and denial of future employment. The North Carolina School of Government has an interesting program called C-CAT that can assist in determining possible collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.
But should minor felony convictions have such a long lasting impact on an individual? If a person does his time (or probation, or whatever) for a minor felony, should that person not be allowed to get on with his life and have every opportunity to become a productive, tax paying member of society?
In the past few years it has become easier for people convicted of minor felony offenses in North Carolina to do just that; become productive citizens without the burden of lifelong collateral consequences. Don’t get me wrong, the collateral consequences still take decades to overcome, but they can at least now be overcome.
North Carolina has had in place a method for expunging minor felony convictions. However, those expunctions had age restrictions on them and generally could only be utilized by a person who committed an offense prior to his 18th birthday or 21st birthday, depending on the offense. As of December 1, 2012, the field of candidates eligible for expunctions was broadened a bit.
North Carolina General Statute 15A-145.5 allows for expunction of certain non-violent felony convictions, regardless of age. Some of the criteria for expunction under this statute include: (visit here for a full list of the criteria)
- The conviction must be for a non-violent class H or I felony or for a misdemeanor. Specifically excluded are offenses with assault as an essential element to the crime.
- If there are multiple offenses, the convictions must have occurred in the same session of court.
- The person cannot have any conviction since the conviction in question (minor traffic offenses are OK).
- The person must wait 15 years from the date of conviction or 15 years from when sentence is served, whichever is later.
- The court has discretion in whether to grant the expunction.
If a court grants the expunction, the person’s record is wiped clean of the conviction, and for the most part, the person can truthfully say that he has no prior felony convictions (N.C. Gen. Stat. 17c and 17E still requires the felony be disclosed to law enforcement or correctional agencies by persons seeking employment with one of those agencies).
If you or someone you know is suffering the consequences of a felony conviction in Duplin County or Sampson County, contact Ludlum Law Firm today for a free consultation to see if the conviction can be expunged. Even if the conviction was in another county in North Carolina, contact us anyway and we can advise you as to whether the case qualifies for expunction and put you in contact with an attorney who can help.