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Bill helps to dismiss minor offenses from record

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- These days, Dexter Norwood says life is good.

“I'm definitely in a better position now and feeling a lot better about things,” Norwood said.

He's a chemist at a chemical manufacturing company in High Point, has a degree from North Carolina A&T and is studying computer programming.

It’s a huge difference from where he was about two years ago.

"Not even getting a call back, mostly," he said.

In 2015, Norwood was charged with possession of marijuana half an ounce -- a misdemeanor which was on his record and made it hard for him to get a job.

"Getting towards the interview process then getting turned down," he said.

He did community service and more than a year later, the charges were dismissed and expunged from his record.

“This gives them a solid opportunity to start over,” said Tyrone Joyner, executive director of The Outer Limits Program.

It’s a second chance Joyner hopes more people will get after Gov. Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 445 into law Friday.

It shortens how long a first-time, non-violent offender has to wait to have their criminal record expunged.

SB445 reduces the wait time for expunction of a first-time nonviolent misdemeanor or felony conviction from 15 years to five years for a misdemeanor conviction and 10 years for a felony conviction.

The law also clears any charges that were dismissed or where the offender was found not guilty.

“For non-violent offenses, it should be that way,” Joyner said. “You can't keep locking people up.”

Joyner’s program offers community service, anger management classes and drug and alcohol education to people charged with misdemeanors and low-end felonies.

Joyner says the new law will help many of the clients he hears from all the time.

“‘Mr. Joyner, I can't get an apartment,’” he said. “‘I can't find a job.’"

Obstacles Norwood says he's glad to have behind him as he starts a new chapter.

“Making some moves into my next part of life and getting into some new opportunities,” Norwood said.

The law goes into effect on Dec. 1.