Whether you call it an expunction or expungement (they are used interchangeably), the process by which one can wipe their criminal record clean is a great tool and one that may prove very worthwhile. Having a criminal record can affect potential employment and educational opportunities and can have implications on eligibility for governmental programs and immigration.
In North Carolina, an expunction is the process of erasing a criminal record by court order. North Carolina General Statutes Chapter 15A 145-153 explains the situations in which a person may be eligible for an expunction. In short, expunctions are most commonly limited to the following situations:
- A charge that has been voluntarily dismissed, deferred dismissed, or returned “not guilty”
- A first-time, nonviolent offense that was committed more than 15 years ago
- A first-time offense that was committed before reaching the age of 18 or 22 (depending on offense)
Although there are a few other very narrow scenarios in which an expunction may be appropriate, these are the three categories that are most frequently used. Category (1) above is typically used to erase a “charge/offense” from ones record. Even though there was no conviction and the charge may have been dismissed or disposed of as “not guilty,” the criminal record will still show that the person was “charged” with the alleged offense.
For category (2) above, any crime is considered “nonviolent” except: a Class A-G felony or a Class A1 misdemeanor; an offense that includes assault as an essential element; an offense that requires registration pursuant to Article 27A of NCGS; sex-related or stalking offenses; any felony offense in Chapter 90 involving methamphetamines, heroin, or possession with intent to sell and deliver cocaine; an offense under 14-12.12-.14; an offense under 14-401.16; and any felony in which a commercial vehicle was used in the commission of the offense.
Some additional requirements to be eligible for expunction under category (2) above include that at least 15 years have passed since the date of conviction, the petitioner has had no previous expunctions, the petitioner has completed his/her sentence, and that the petitioner has no pending criminal cases.
Finally, for category (3) above, several first-time offenses may be eligible for expunction as long as they were committed before the individual reached the age of 18 or 22 (depending on the offense). Non-felony convictions that occurred before the petitioner was 18 may be eligible. Certain misdemeanor convictions before the person reached 18 are eligible. Misdemeanor possession of alcohol convictions before the person reached 21 are eligible. Many different misdemeanor drug convictions that occur before the person reaches the age of 22 are eligible as well.
There are a host of other issues that should be considered when filing the expunction petition. In certain instances, you may be able to expunge more than one offense on the same petition. There are different petitions that must be used depending on how you qualify for an expunction. Also, each county has different procedures for how to file the petition, have it signed by a judge, mail it off to the SBI, and then schedule a return hearing once the petition comes back.
As you can tell, determining whether or not a person may be eligible for an expunction and getting all of the paperwork completed accurately can be complicated. It is very important to contact a local criminal defense attorney to have them review your criminal record to determine if you are eligible.
As of December 1st, 2017 a new law SB 445 goes into effect making several key changes to the NC expungement process, below we have listed the most important changes. Under this law many more people are eligible to clean their records and really move on with their lives.
1.Previously only one expungement per lifetime was allowed, how does this new law change that?
- You are still only allowed to get one conviction per lifetime expunged. What changes with the passage of SB 445 is now you can get unlimited non-convictions expunged from your record, if you have charges on your record that where dismissed or found not guilty you can now get all of them removed from your official record.
- Please note that all convictions are not included, DWI’s , violent crimes are generally not included, please contact us to see if your conviction could be expunged.
2. What qualifications do I need to get a conviction expunged?
- Cannot have been convicted of a felony unless the felony is the charge being expunged.
- Cannot have received convictions for anything since the conviction that they are trying to get expunged.
3. How long will I have to wait to get a conviction expunged now ?
- Lowers the waiting time for misdemeanors to 5 years instead of 15 years.*
- Lowers the waiting time for Felonies to 10 years instead of 15 years.*
*(time starts at the conclusion of the sentence, either when jail time is complete or any probationary period is over – not from date of conviction)