New laws that took effect at the end of 2020 in North Carolina changed certain aspects of criminal justice in the state. The Second Chance Act and The First Step Act enacted reforms expected to deliver help to individuals convicted or charged with minor crimes or drug crimes.
Each law takes a different angle toward criminal justice reform.
The North State Journal states that this reform expands the opportunity for people to clear their records of certain criminal convictions or other legal bad marks. Under this law, individuals could see their record expunged of lower-level convictions, dismissed charges and not guilty verdicts. One purpose of the Second Chance Act is to reduce the likelihood that individuals will face discrimination concerning employment or housing due to past actions.
People with multiple nonviolent misdemeanors can petition the court to remove these offenses from the public record. Provisions of the law do allow law enforcement agencies to have access to the expunged records when evaluating hiring decisions for officers.
WITN reports that the First Step Act aims to give judges more flexibility when sentencing individuals charged with drug trafficking crimes. State law requires mandatory minimum sentencing for these crimes, but now the new law allows judges to take circumstances into account. This could enable the judge to make judgments on the sentencing and bypass the minimum sentencing requirements.
Only in certain cases can a judge deviate from sentencing requirements. The person charged cannot be a repeat offender nor can a case involve violent activity. Supporters of the law hope it helps people who have substance abuse issues.