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Everyone makes mistakes. Your history, your record and your past are important aspects of who you are and what you have become. Having a criminal record is nothing to feel ashamed of, but if you want to get your record expunged, a law change near the end of last year may help you do it.

As of December 1, 2017, North Carolina changed the rules regarding having your criminal history expunged. Expungement is the process in which charges are officially removed from your public record. Having your record expunged of, for example, a DUI charge allows you to legally say that you were never charged or convicted of that crime. The law changes focus on making the process easier and helping those who have served their time put the past behind them.

What are the changes?

Specifically, the law takes the expungement process and streamlines it in the following ways:

  • Reducing the waiting time for non-violent felony expungements from 15 years to 10.
  • Reducing the waiting time for non-violent misdemeanor offenses to five years.
  • Removing the restriction on obtaining multiple expungements if a person was acquitted or had charges dismissed.

This means people who have served their sentences and reformed get to have their records cleared more quickly. It also means that those who were never convicted or had charges dismissed can have a cleared record as well.

Why was the law changed?

Much of the political discussion about criminal justice reform is focused on handling those currently incarcerated or those facing punishment. Having criminal charges on your record, however, can bar you from any number of opportunities. By having complicated rules for expungement a government is essentially extending your punishment past your sentence.

Taking the stance that all criminals should be punished is easy. It requires no empathy or personal engagement. It does no good to continue to punish North Carolinians who made mistakes and served their time or weren’t convicted in the first place start. The new changes represent a principle of mercy being brought into the criminal justice system.