New state law protects non-violent felons looking for work, housing

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A new state law is helping non-violent ex-offenders to start over clean.

The Certificate of Relief Act, which went into effect Dec. 1, is geared toward knocking down roadblocks which many previously convicted felons face when applying for jobs, housing and school.

“There are folks, literally, who have been under a curse, is what I call it, for something they did when they were 19, 20-years-old,” said Democratic State Rep. Marcus Brandon of Guilford County, who is one of several other representatives backing the new state law.  “And now they’re 30, 40-years-old and they still have to check that box for ‘Felon.’”

Republican State Rep. John Faircloth, also of Guilford County, is another who supports the new act.

“This is not something that affects a small number of people.  This is something that affects a vast majority of people,” Brandon said.

Michael Faye, who is now a college-educated father and military veteran, sold powder cocaine to an undercover police officer in 1991.  He didn’t serve any jail sentence, but went through six months of intensive probation.

“I’m convicted of a felony, but that’s not who I am,” Faye said.

Ever since, he says his life has not been easy.  He says any time he applies for a job, he’s reminded of a mistake he made nearly 20 years ago.

“You have to put something in place for people to live and function in society,” Faye said.

Under the Certificate Act, if a person is convicted of no more than two misdemeanors, or class G, H, or I felonies, then they’re eligible to petition the court for a certificate of relief.  The law also outlines sanctions that can’t be excused, such as restrictions on registered sex offenders.

The certificate isn’t a pardon, but rather an acknowledgement by the state that a person shouldn’t be held back in certain situations because of a low-level offense.  If a business denies somebody with a certificate of relief an employment or housing opportunity based on their conviction, the business could face charges of negligence.

The court uses certain requirements to decide on a case-by-case basis whether to issue the certificate.  The requirements include:

- At least 12 months have passed since the person has completed their sentence.
– The person must have or be making an effort to look for a legitimate occupation.
– The person has complied with their sentence.
– The person is not violating the terms of their sentence.
– Granting the petition wouldn’t pose an unreasonable risk to anyone’s safety or welfare.

Rep. Brandon is holding regular town hall meetings to discuss specific details about the Certificate Act.  For more information, visit marcusbrandon.com by clicking here.

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