Criminal records don’t have to be a roadblock

By Melonie Flomer

June 19, 2014

HAMLET — If a past criminal conviction is keeping you unemployed, Legal Aid of North Carolina may be able to help.

A free legal clinic at the Hamlet Public Library from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday aims to assist qualifying low-income residents of Richmond and Anson counties “who have been denied employment or housing due to their criminal records,” according to Sean Driscoll, Legal Aid of North Carolina spokesman.

Legal Aid’s David Richardson said appontments are required. Residents can call the Rockingham office at 910-817-7670, the Pittsboro office at 919-542-0475 or the toll-free number, 1-800-672-5834.

Callers will be screened for financial eligibility before receiving an appointment, and the deadline for calling in is the end of the day on Monday.

Driscoll said certain types of criminal charges can be damaging to a person’s employment eligibility and quality of life — even those that never led to a conviction.

“Expunctions and certificates of relief are legal tools that can ease the way to self-sufficiency for people whose criminal records are preventing them from securing employment, housing, public benefits and other resources,” Driscoll wrote. “In North Carolina, arrests that did not lead to criminal charges, charges that did not lead to convictions and convictions that were later overturned all remain on a person’s permanent criminal record and can prove to be significant roadblocks for people trying to lead a normal life.”

Although eligibility requirements are strict, Legal Aid of North Carolina attorneys said is not impossible to meet them and move forward with life following a criminal past.

“Don’t eliminate yourself automatically,” Richardson said. “Come in and let us see if you are eligible. The expunction wall is limited, but there are things we can do to help. Even if you are unable to make the clinic, you can still call our offices and schedule appointments any business day of the year.”

Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-997-3111, ext. 15.