CHARLOTTE, N.C. - People who have been waiting for some 15 years to have their criminal records expunged will finally get that chance.
A new state law goes into effect on Dec. 1, 2012, that will clear the records of some people who stayed on the right path after being punished for their crimes.
Eyewitness News spoke with one woman who said for her, this is a new beginning.
"My charge is not who I am. It was a decision, a bad decision that I made,” Dorothy Woods said.
In 1997, Woods was convicted on felony drug trafficking charges and served eight months behind bars.
In the years to follow, she turned her life around. She works as a certified nursing assistant while going to school to become an RN. She's a homeowner and proud mom.
"I have three beautiful kids, two of which I was able to send off to college," she said.
But her accomplishments haven't come easy. Her felony drug charge disqualified her from getting certain assistance when she bought her home and made it almost impossible for her to find work.
"You may put in in more than 50 applications a month and you hear about how experienced you are, how qualified you are, but because of this, we cannot hire you,” Woods said.
Woods tried to get her record expunged twice but was denied.
Now, a new state law will change that.
Starting Dec. 1, people with first-time nonviolent misdemeanors and low-level felony convictions who completed their sentences 15 years ago can have their records expunged. They must also show they have stayed out of trouble and have been productive.
The North Carolina Justice Center estimates the law could impact at least 20,000 people. Woods is thankful that finally she is one of them.
"It gives you hope," Woods said. "It's my second chance. I'm truly excited. I really am."
Not everyone with convictions from 15 years ago will be eligible to have their records cleared. Certain crimes like sex offenses, assaults or drug offenses involving meth and cocaine are excluded.