Durham DA works to expunge records of teens charged as adults on low-level offenses

North Carolina

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Hundreds of teens charged as adults for low-level offenses over the last 27 years will have their records expunged.

This comes after Durham County District Attorney Satana Deberry petitioned to have 1,748 charges against 276 individuals expunged. A judge approved the expungements last week.

The charges were for low-level offenses committed by individuals who were 16 or 17 years old before the “raise the age” law took effect two years ago. This included charges filed between 1994 and 2018.

The “raise the age” law made it to where individuals 16 or 17 years old could be charged as juveniles rather than adults.

“There were some children who had been convicted at 16 and 17-year-olds who did not have the benefit of decision,” Deberry said.

Deberry said that charging these 16 and 17-year-old teenagers as adults kept them from moving on from their mistakes.

“Even if they never did another thing, that record can keep them from getting scholarships, going to college, and finding a safe affordable place to live,” Deberry said. “When we’re teenagers we don’t make the best decisions and most of us don’t have to pay for the rest of our lives for the poor decisions we made as juveniles. So we want to make sure that we get to extend that opportunity to everyone.”

Tyler Whittenberg is with the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, an organization that helps young people going through the justice system.

“We really do appreciate the effort to remove these barriers,” Whittenberg said.

Whittenberg said removing these barriers will allow these individuals to live better quality lives and help create a safer Durham.

“The fact that they may have more socioeconomic cultural opportunities is a very big thing,” Whittenberg said. “We see this as a good faith attempt to try to limit the impact the criminal justice system has on our communities, especially our black and brown communities who are disproportionately pulled through the system.”

The DA said letters have been sent out to those who are having their records expunged.

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