The Durham County District Attorney’s Office this week said it had successfully expunged hundreds of criminal charges brought against teenagers who at the time were prosecuted as adults.

The move was made possible by the state’s “Second Chance” law, which was signed into law last year to give courts the ability to expunge misdemeanor and low-level felony charges and convictions against those under 18 years old. A separate law passed in 2019 bars prosecutors from charging a 16 or 17 year old as an adult for most non-violent crimes.

On Thursday, the district attorney’s office said it had filed the petitions this month in Durham County Superior Court to expunge more than 1,700 charges brought against individuals who were under 18 years old when they were prosecuted as adults.

Overall, the district attorney’s office reported that 429 petitions were granted, encompassing 1,748 charges against 276 individuals.

“The majority of the offenses addressed were for property crimes. By far, the most common charge among the group was felony breaking and entering,” Sarah Willets, a spokeswoman in the district attorney’s office, said in a press release. 

Durham District Attorney Satana Deberry said the county’s expunction of cases is fitting in April during National Second Chance Month

“All of these individuals have been held accountable,” Deberry said. “Yet, they are still shouldering the weight of these charges, including many that never resulted in a conviction, up to 25 years later. Long after a sentence has ended, a criminal record can continue to be an obstacle to housing, employment, scholarships, and opportunity. These expunctions will lift barriers to success for hundreds of people in our community.”

Durham Superior Court Judge Josephine Kerr Davis, who granted the petitions, stated in the release that “justice requires equity and fairness.”

“For many of the people who would benefit most from record relief, seeking an expunction on their own is not easy,” she said. “Proactively expunging these eligible offenses ensures equal access to justice, regardless of a person’s ability to navigate complex expunction law, hire an attorney, or pay to file an expunction petition themselves.”

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