Durham DA’s Office Clearing Misdemeanor Records for Teens Prosecuted as Adults
December 2, 2021
For immediate release
Durham DA’s Office Works to Clear Misdemeanor Records for Teens Prosecuted as Adults
DURHAM, NC — The Durham County District Attorney’s Office is continuing to initiate criminal record expunctions on behalf of 16 and 17-year-olds who were prosecuted as adults before North Carolina raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction.
The DA’s Office presented a first group of misdemeanor expunction petitions in court on November 10. Over the following week, District Court Judge Amanda Maris reviewed and granted those petitions, expunging more than 1,400 charges from the criminal records of nearly 400 people.
“While the offenses being expunged are low-level, the impact on people’s lives is significant,” said District Attorney Satana Deberry. “Everyone benefiting from these expunctions has not only been held accountable for their offenses, they have faced court sanctions and collateral consequences teenagers today would not face under the law. These expunctions will lift barriers to employment, housing, professional licenses, scholarships and more for hundreds of individuals in our community.”
“With the bipartisan ‘Raise the Age’ legislation, 16 and 17-year-olds charged with crimes today are adjudicated in juvenile court where there is an emphasis on rehabilitation and treatment and no public criminal record is created,” said Maris. “Each petition I reviewed represented a teenager who, unlike today’s youth, faced the justice system alongside adults and left the courtroom with an indelible stain on their criminal record and future. Many of the petitions were for charges like second-degree trespass or simple possession of marijuana — charges that are typically dismissed in present day criminal court after treatment or community service. This disparity of justice outcomes for the youth of today and youth of years past leaves only one conclusion: These teens deserved a second chance when they came to our court system and we treated them like adults, and they most certainly deserve it now. This relief is not only fair and equitable but overdue.”
In total, there were 567 petitions granted, encompassing 1,410 charges against 399 individuals. Included in this group were:
· Misdemeanor convictions in Durham County for offenses committed by 16 and 17-year-olds from 2011 through 2019.
· Other associated charges from the same cases that did not result in a conviction, such as dismissed charges.
The most common offenses among the group were misdemeanor probation violations and misdemeanor larceny, as well as charges involving the possession of marijuana or drug paraphernalia.
In the coming months, the Durham DA’s Office expects to submit an additional 8,000 misdemeanor expunction petitions dating back to 1979 for the court’s consideration. A single petition may encompass multiple charges and one individual may have multiple petitions.
Prior to the bipartisan passage of the Second Chance Act last year, district attorneys in North Carolina did not have the ability to seek an expunction on behalf of a juvenile charged as an adult. Among other provisions, the law allows district attorneys to petition the court for expunctions of misdemeanor, Class H felony, and Class I felony convictions committed by 16 and 17-year-olds prior to December 2019, when North Carolina’s Raise the Age law shifted those offenses to the juvenile court system. To be eligible for relief, a person must have completed the sentence for the offense at hand including any post-release supervision and must not owe restitution. Under the law, a petition that meets the eligibility criteria must be granted.
Shortly after the passage of the Second Chance Act, the Durham DA’s Office requested that the Administrative Office of the Courts identify eligible offenses in Durham County. Prior to filing the expunction petitions, the DA’s Office sent letters to any victims in the cases to notify them about this process, explain the law, and give them an opportunity to be heard prior to the petitions being filed. The Durham County Clerk’s Office will notify everyone who receives an expunction by mail. In addition, the DA’s Office is taking additional steps to notify each individual and refer them to the Durham Expunction and Restoration Program (DEAR) for additional assistance.
The Durham DA’s Office completed expunctions of all known eligible felony cases in April. Through those efforts, more than 1,700 criminal charges were expunged from the records of about 260 people — including low-level felony convictions, as well as associated misdemeanor convictions and other charges that did not result in a conviction.
The Durham DA’s Office thanks the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Durham County Clerk’s Office, the Durham County Public Defender’s Office and the Durham Expunction and Restoration Program (DEAR) for their assistance in this initiative.
For more information about the intersection of the Second Chance Act and Raise the Age, visit nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/expunction-relief-for-doughnut-hole-youth
The Durham County District Attorney’s Office employs about 40 people, including prosecutors, administrators, victim service coordinators, legal assistants, and support staff. The Office is led by District Attorney Satana Deberry, who took office on January 1, 2019. The Office represents the State in all criminal cases in Durham County. Find more information about the role of the district attorney on the Durham DA’s Office Medium page.