If you are one of the thousands of North Carolinians hamstrung by your criminal record, write these details down:
In July, the Charlotte Community Relations Committee will hold an expunction clinic to help qualified folks remove old criminal charges or convictions from their records. First, you have to register. You can do that May 10 at the Urban League – Central Carolinas, 740 W. Fifth St., from 6 to 9 p.m.
Expunction – also known as expungement – is an odd-sounding legal term that simply means scrubbing away criminal histories that may be keeping you from getting a job, qualifying for a student loan or being approved for an apartment.
It’s hard to say how many people still wear the shackles of long-ago criminal charges. When the CRC held an expunction clinic earlier this month to match people with lawyers, volunteers were expecting a turnout of 150 to 200. Instead, as many as 700 showed up. Several hundred people had to be turned away.
“There is a groundswell of need,” says Maria Macon, executive director of the CRC’s Council of Elders, which is organizing the clinics. She said volunteers have become keenly aware of “how many people are living marginal lives because of their criminal records,” and how many charges still popping up on background checks should have been removed years ago.
State law is pretty specific on the types of crime that qualify for removal. All must have occurred in North Carolina. They are:
▪ A first-time, nonviolent offense committed more than 15 years ago.
▪ A first-time offense committed between the ages of 18 and 22.
▪ A charge that was dismissed or found “not guilty.”
On May 10, those who register will give volunteers permission to pull their criminal records to make sure they qualify. Those who do will be paired in July with volunteer attorneys and students from the Charlotte School of Law to fill out the expunction paperwork. Macon says the clinic also serves as a portal for other kinds of help – from job training and placement, to housing and other legal services.
Questions? Call the expunction hotline at 980-216-8809. Pre-registration for the May event is not required.
Says Macon: “All people have to do is show up.”