Durham, NC, March 10, 2016 --(PR.com
)-- William V. “Bill” Bell, Mayor of the City of Durham, North Carolina, has proclaimed Thursday, March 10, 2016 as “Charles Belk and Justified AutoErasure Day” in Durham and encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate the protection of the good name of innocent people. The Proclamation, issued on Monday, March 7, 2016, at the Durham City Council Meeting, among other things, cites Charles Belk for “turning a negative experience into a learning opportunity,” and establishing a non-profit called Fitting The Description, “which seeks to bring about racial sensitivity, and the automatic erasure or expungement of certain records of a person when a charge or several charges against a person are dismissed as a result of identity theft or mistaken identity.”
After being wrongfully arrested for mistaken identity in metro-Los Angeles, CA, Charles Belk, has gone from handcuffed curbside to M.A.D. -- Making A Difference, by inspiring the implementation of new “#AutoErase” laws across the country as a result of his wrongful arrest. North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory became the first state, on August 6, 2015, to sign such a bill into law that supported the #AutoErase initiative. Senate Bill 233 was introduced by Senator Floyd McKissick (D-Durham), on March 10, 2015, and requires the automatic expunction of wrongful arrest records due to mistaken identity or identity theft.
On August 22, 2014, Charles Belk was mistakenly identified as an armed bank robber, because he fit the description as a tall, bald, Black male. He was handcuffed, detained, taken to the police station, booked, denied a phone call, denied being told his charges, denied immediate access to an attorney, jailed for six hours for Armed Bank Robbery and Accessory to Armed Robbery and held under a $100,000 bail.
Although he was released later that night and given a Certificate of Detention which indicated he was detained and not arrested, an arrest record appeared on the Sheriff’s website and a state legal process had to be followed to get the arrest record sealed and destroyed. Since his arrest, Belk launched a nationwide effort, through the non-profit he founded, Fitting The Description, and his #AutoErase campaign, to educate and inform those about the perils of wrongful arrests, and engage legislation to alleviate the burden and costs incurred by the innocent to remove those arrest records.
#AutoErase legislation has been signed into law in both North Carolina and Illinois, and is pending legislation in nine other states (Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Arizona, Michigan, Tennessee, Missouri, Nebraska and Colorado.)
Innocent people in North Carolina, as well as throughout the country, are wrongfully charged each day with a felony or misdemeanor crime because the charges were issued as the result of mistaken identity or identity theft. Because the responsibility to remove a wrongful arrest record falls on the charged individual (other then in North Carolina and Illinois), they are burdened with the expenses and time required to handle such a task. If a person does not have the erroneous arrest record removed, it can greatly affect their ability in the future to get a job, a loan or certain licenses.
“This means a great, great deal to me, being from Durham,” said Belk. “When this situation happened to me, I realized that when life throws you a lemon, at least you still have your life; and it is our obligation to do something with it and make a difference.”
Born and raised in Durham, Belk is a producer at and president of I Will Make You a Star Productions, a Los Angeles-based social/digital marketing and production company. He is also founder and executive director of Fitting The Description Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization established to help build awareness of wrongful detentions and arrests that occur each day because an individual “fit the description.” Charles Belk is a graduate of Durham Hillside High School. He received a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University, and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard Business School.