Action Alert: A Second Chance for N.C. Residents

Roy Cooper and the N.C. Legislature give people with criminal records a second chance  

Yesterday, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act (SB 562) into law after its unanimous passage in the N.C. General Assembly. This “clean slate” legislation expands eligibility for N.C. residents to have nonviolent criminal offenses removed from their records through expunctions.

This is welcome news for Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy and the people it serves because it eliminates barriers to safety, economic stability and family security.   

Through its Community Redevelopment Project, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps eligible citizens get expunctions, which seal criminal records from public view and give people a second chance at a life as law-abiding citizens without barriers to opportunity.    

More than 2 million North Carolinians have a criminal record. Dismissed charges and old convictions have lasting consequences on individuals that impact their access to employment, housing and other opportunities.   

“The Second Chance Act is a welcomed fresh start for millions of North Carolinians with criminal records who would like a clean slate.”   

Lashieka Hardin, attorney, Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy

“This legislation is also a significant step toward addressing the severe disparities that exist in our justice system that disproportionately impact people based on income and race,” Hardin said.   

The Second Chance Act is a critical step in the process of improving racial justice and equity in our society. The NAACP reports that a criminal record can reduce the likelihood of a job offer by almost 50 percent, and the negative impact of a criminal record is doubled for Black people. A Black person with a criminal record has a 10 percent chance of getting a call back compared to white men who have a 22 percent chance.

The Second Chance Act will provide Black men and women who are disproportionately charged and convicted of crimes the chance to pursue opportunity without a criminal record holding them back.  

What the Second Chance Act Will Do:

  • Automatic relief for certain misdemeanor and felony charges that are dismissed or disposed “not guilty.”
  • Relief for Juvenile offenders by allowing the expunction of misdemeanor and Class H or I felony convictions that occurred when a person was either 16 or 17 and before December 1, 2019.
  • Gives prosecutors the power to petition for the expunction of dismissed charges and charges disposed “not guilty” as well as “Raise the Age” convictions.
  • Expands eligibility by allowing individuals to petition for the expunction of nonviolent misdemeanor criminal convictions after seven years of good behavior.

If you think you qualify for an expunction or have any questions about the process, call Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy at 704-376-1600 ext 501. Also, tune in to our Facebook Live on Tuesday at noon for more detailed information about the Second Chance Act.    

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy believes all people deserve second chances at opportunity, and we’re glad to see that after many years, the state of North Carolina has taken a step toward that goal. 

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Governor Roy Cooper signed the Second Chance Act today, granting millions a second chance at opportunity.    

Share this message with your networks and encourage those who may qualify for an expunction to contact Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy for more information on what to do next.  

Learn more information about Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s work on expunctions through its Community Redevelopment Project.   

Katten Attorney Joins Advocacy Center to Support Community Redevelopment

Katten Muchin Roseman LLP has allowed one of its attorneys to join the Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s staff this summer to support efforts to provide stability for families in the Charlotte metro region.

Max Swindle joined Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy May 26, as part of a three-month attorney loan program. Swindle, a real estate attorney specializing in commercial real estate finance, is working with the Advocacy Center’s Consumer Protection Program to help people clean up their criminal records and get drivers licenses restored.

For the more than 2 million North Carolinians with a criminal record, finding jobs, housing and opportunity is an uphill battle. And one in seven N.C. adults has a suspended drivers license, leaving them unable to effectively get to work, school or run everyday errands without a car.

These issues disproportionately impact people based on income and race, which is why the Advocacy Center’s Community Redevelopment Project seeks to eliminate these barriers to opportunity and promote equity in our community.

“I am so excited to have Max join us to do this important work,” said attorney Lashieka Hardin, who manages the Community Redevelopment Project. “I look forward to seeing all the great things we do together as team over the next few months.”

Adding a full-time attorney to focus on these two practice areas is an innovative approach that enables the Advocacy Center to serve more people in need, provide stability and promote economic opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy’s Diana Godoy interviewed Swindle during his first week on the job. Learn a bit more about him in his own words:

About Max Swindle …

“I grew up in North Carolina, went to UNC-Chapel Hill for undergrad and then stayed there for law school. I graduated law school in 2017, and I moved out to Denver, Colorado to work. I was there until December 2018. And then my wife , who I met in law school, and I moved back to North Carolina. She’s originally from Charlotte. I’m from Winston-Salem. So, we just decided to move home.”

What he does at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP …

“Since graduating law school, I have been working as an attorney for Katten Muchin Rosenman and their real estate finance practice group. I represent lenders, different commercial banks and investment groups and originating new loans for the commercial mortgage backed securities market.”

Why he came to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy …

“With the COVID-19 outbreak, my practice area has been very slow the last few months, really ever since March. Our office managing partner and our deputy general counsel had been in contact with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy to see if they could use some help over the next few months with the expunction and driver’s license restoration programs.

They asked me if [joining the Advocacy Center staff] was something I was interested in. And I said, ‘Yeah, that’ll be great.’ I just hope I can pitch in and pick up on these new areas of practice as quickly as I can to be of use.”

What he will be doing …

“For this first week, I’ve been working on a few cases in-house with Lashieka Hardin to kind of get my feet on the ground, kind of understanding how this all works.

And then I believe starting next week, I’m going to start helping with a new driver’s license restoration project. We look at clients that have already been in contact with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy, and they have either some misdemeanor or felony charges on their record that could be eligible to be removed if they meet certain criteria. We review those, figure out what we can do, and we file petitions with the different [N.C.] counties where those charges show up.

We hope to get these charges off people’s records because having different charges listed can hinder people getting housing, getting jobs, getting loans, things like that. And I think that’ll continue throughout the summer. I think some of it will be  helping coordinate clinics and with outside pro bono attorneys, kind of helping them handle different client interactions.”

What he’s looking forward to …

“Just getting to interact with a great group of attorneys who are very, very good at what they do. I’ve been a part of the few video meetings this first week with the Consumer Protection group. Everyone’s super nice, super passionate about what they’re doing. The work is great: helping people with complex problems that that can really affect your everyday life.

It’s about just getting to work with such great people and give back to the community. I don’t have as much time as I would like to do this work in my normal firm job, so this has been a great opportunity.”

What he hopes to get out of this experience …

“I’m going to try and just absorb as much information as I can so that hopefully when these few months are over, I’ll be able to maybe come back to Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy as a pro bono attorney to help out with things like expunctions or maybe this driver’s license restoration project later on. I would like to stay involved. I’m just hoping to learn as much as I can so that I can continue to be necessary.”

Thank you to Katten for partnering with Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy in our mission to pursue justice for those in need. We are glad to have Max on our team!

2020 Expunction Clinics Kick Off with Help of Triage Partners

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy kicked off its 2020 expunction clinics Jan. 22 with volunteers from the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership to help 15 Mecklenburg County residents apply to have their criminal records expunged.

An expunction (also called an “expungement”) removes minor offenses and misdemeanors on one’s criminal record that create significant barriers to economic stability and opportunity.

Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy helps low-income Mecklenburg County residents get their criminal records expunged allowing them to pursue a broader range of economic opportunities.

The expunction clinic was the first of six to be held this year.

“This is a breath of fresh air,” said Bernard, who had been working toward a new start before coming to the clinic for help.

He heard about the expunction clinic and registered through Running Works, a Charlotte nonprofit that empowers individuals and families to break cycles of abuse, abandonment, neglect, poverty and homelessness through running, career development services, counseling, group therapy and housing initiatives.

“What I needed the most was to clean up my record instead of giving up,” he said.

Now Bernard is waiting to learn if his application will be approved.

Bernard is one of more than 2 million North Carolina residents living with a criminal record. Too often, these individuals are automatically denied employment, housing, and other opportunities, based on past involvement with the criminal justice system, including dismissed charges and long-ago convictions.

As part of its 2020 Advocacy Agenda, the Advocacy Center supports legislative efforts to expand eligibility for expunctions, such as The Second Chance Act, which passed with bipartisan support in the N.C. Senate last year. We are hopeful that the N.C. House of Representatives will consider and approve this legislation this spring.

Through our individual representation and advocacy, the Advocacy Center seeks to help people with criminal records have a fair chance at productive citizenship.

Special thanks to Lara Nichols and Ann Warren of Duke Energy; Kevin Denny and Justin Knapp of McGuireWoods LLP; Abigail Williams of K&L Gates LLP; Katie Clarke and Fern Patterson of Parker Poe; and Chad Crockford of Wells Fargo for volunteering their time through the Charlotte Triage Pro Bono Partnership.

Wondering if you are eligible to clean up your criminal record?

Mecklenburg County residents can learn more and register for our upcoming clinics by calling 704-376-1600 ext. 510.

Registration is required to receive assistance. Applicants must not have any pending criminal charges.