Before petitioning for an expungement, you will need to determine if you qualify for an expungement in North Carolina. With the recent changes to expungement laws, this step can be quite confusing. Below, we answer common questions about the requirements for an expungement in NC.

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What is an Expungement?

In North Carolina, an expungement is when a judge orders a record sealed so the public cannot see it.  The purpose of the expungement is to seal a record as if the charge or conviction had never occurred.  While the SBI, and soon prosecutors, can see your record, the public cannot.

Senate Bill 445 Expands Qualifications for Expungements

In December of 2017, Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 445. This new state law opened up the opportunity for many people to get an expungement in North Carolina. It also reduced the length of time people needed to wait before they were eligible. In short, many people can now get their record cleared earlier.

How many times can you get an expungement in NC?

Before, you could only get one expungement under Chapter 15A. You could also get one under Chapter 90 but, then you wouldn’t be eligible for another expungement.

But, under the current law, you can get multiple expungements.

Other Important Changes to Expungements in North Carolina

Before: To expunge a misdemeanor conviction, you needed to wait 15 years.
Now: Misdemeanor convictions qualify for an expungement after five years instead of 15.

Before: To expunge a felony conviction, you needed to wait 15 years.
Now: Felony convictions qualify for an expungement after 10 years instead of 15.

Before: You could only get one set of dismissals expunged.
Now: There is no longer a limit on how many dismissals can qualify for an expungement.

In exchange for this loosening of the laws, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel now have access to all records.

Can I get a felony conviction expunged in NC?

Under NCGS 15A-146, you can get an expungement for a felony conviction if:

  • you do not currently have a felony conviction on record
  • the district attorney or the court dismissed the case, or
  • if a jury found you not guilty

You can get an expungement even with a violent felony that would never be expungable if convicted, as long as the violent felony charge resulted in a dismissal or not guilty verdict. But, if you were convicted of a non-violent felony, the waiting period depends on the charge and your age. This applies to lower-level felony convictions. But, for many higher-level crimes, and crimes involving violence, you can never get an expungement.

Can I get a misdemeanor conviction expunged in NC?

You can get a misdemeanor expunged in North Carolina if:

  • after getting charged, the district attorney or the court dismissed the case, or
  • if a judge or jury found you not guilty

If you are found guilty, the waiting period for expungement depends on your age and the specific charge. But, the waiting period is often five years. This is a huge improvement from the old law of which required a 15-year waiting period.

Can I get a larceny conviction expunged in NC?

As with all non-DWI misdemeanors in North Carolina, you can get a larceny conviction expunged if:

  • the district attorney or the court dismissed the case, or
  • if a judge or jury found you not guilty

If you have a misdemeanor larceny conviction in North Carolina and you are over the age of 18, you may qualify for an expungement after five years. If you are under the age of 18, you would qualify for an expungement after two years.

Can I get a drug conviction expunged in NC?

As with all other non-DWI misdemeanors, if your charge is dismissed there is no waiting period for an expungement. You can get one immediately.

But, if you were convicted, the new waiting periods range from one year to 10 years for those under age 22 at the time of the conviction. You may also take part in a first-time offender’s sentencing under NCGS 90-96. After you complete the program you are immediately eligible for an expungement.

Can I get a DWI conviction expunged in NC?

Unfortunately, an amendment to the statute in 2015 redefined a DWI conviction as non-expungable. The conviction is never eligible for expungement. But, if your DWI charge is dismissed or you are found not guilty, then you are eligible for an immediate expungement.

How long does it take to get an expungement in NC?

Before, SBI needed to review all expungements because you were only allowed one in your life. The SBI needed to certify that you were eligible. Under the new law, many expungement petitions can move quicker if the district attorney can agree that you have never had a felony. This can help you avoid the long waiting period for SBI certification.

Unfortunately, since the law is still new, many judges still want the SBI certification before they will grant the expungement. But, some judges understand the new law and will accept a quick expungement. An experienced expungement attorney can have valuable insight into what the judges in your county are doing.

Once the expungement is complete, will the charges show up in government record checks?

The simple answer is no. But, the more complete answer is that it will not show up for the general public if they search in government databases. However, it could continue to show up in the privately maintained databases for months.

Criminal record checks companies will update their data and remove the charge within a “reasonable time” but that time varies. It could take months before an employer’s background check comes back clean. So it’s a good idea to get an attorney to get the process started as soon as possible. Also, talk to your attorney about getting a judge to bypass the long SBI process.

How do I get an expungement in North Carolina?

Once you know you are eligible for an expungement, you must file your petition at the county courthouse where you were charged. There are different AOC forms for each subsection of the expungement statute that may apply to your specific expungement. The forms vary because there are different expungement statutes and restrictions based on your age, charge, and outcome of the case.

The court in which you file the expungement will depend upon where the case was when it was disposed of. For superior court cases, expungements are heard in superior court. But, for the district court, they are heard at that trial level. Thus, you must look up the proper jurisdiction in which to file the petition.

For some types of expungements, there is no filing fee. For example, if the charges were dismissed by the court without a deferment, or if you were found not guilty there is no filing fee. For other expungements, the courthouse will charge a filing fee of $175.00.

Should I hire an attorney to expunge my record?

Should you do surgery on yourself? Probably not.

Even though a lawyer is not required in North Carolina, we encourage you to hire an experienced lawyer to expunge a charge. It’s also important to note that the court is not allowed to give you legal advice.

The expungement process is complex and can take much more time if you do not know if a judge will skip the SBI process. After many months, the form may come back and you may have used the wrong AOC form or petitioned under the wrong statute.

At the very least, you should consult with an expungement attorney before filing your expungement petition on your own.

At Dummit Fradin our attorneys will review your case and guide you through the process stress-free. Contact us today for a pre-screening to know if you qualify for an expungement in North Carolina.