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Can An Expungement Lawyer Help Erase My Criminal Record?

expungement lawyer

In North Carolina, the shadow of a criminal record can loom large over your life, clouding opportunities in employment, housing, and even education. Imagine if there was a way to erase that shadow, to give yourself a fresh start. This is where the legal concept of expunction, also known as expungement, steps in—a beacon of hope for those who feel weighed down by their past mistakes.

Expunction is not just a legal process; it’s a second chance, allowing for the removal or sealing of a criminal charge or conviction from your record as if it never happened. 

But here’s where it gets tricky: navigating the maze of statutes and paperwork can be overwhelming. 

This is why an expungement lawyer is not just helpful but could be your guide to reclaiming your future. They know the ins and outs of the law, the nuances that could make or break your case, and how to present your situation in the best light possible.

Let’s look at this topic together, exploring how an expungement lawyer can be the key to unlocking a brighter, record-free future.

Understanding Expunction in NC

Have you ever wished you could hit the reset button on certain aspects of your life? Well, if you’re dealing with the aftermath of a criminal charge or conviction in North Carolina, expunction might just be that reset button. 

It’s a legal remedy that can clear your slate, making it as though that arrest, charge, or conviction never happened. But what exactly does it entail, and who gets this golden ticket?

What is Expunction?

Think of expunction as the legal world’s version of a powerful eraser. It can remove or seal your criminal records from the public eye, offering you a fresh start. This isn’t just about peace of mind; it’s about opening doors that were previously closed to you, from job opportunities to housing applications. 

However, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. While it can make you legally “innocent” of a past mistake, there are exceptions, such as federal immigration decisions, that this eraser can’t touch.

Eligibility for Expunction

In NC, the eligibility for expunction is like a puzzle, with pieces that only fit certain conditions. There are statutes tailored for specific offenses—like that one time you might have been caught with a small amount of marijuana or a nonviolent felony from when you were younger.

The state has laid out clear paths for various situations, like whether you were:

  • Under 18 or 21 at the time of the offense
  • If the charge was dismissed
  • You were found not guilty

The key here is detail. The law also looks at many factors, including:

  • What happened
  • When it happened
  • How the case was resolved

For instance, if you’re curious about misdemeanors, NC General Statute, NCGS 15A-145(a), is your starting point, detailing how misdemeanor convictions can be expunged under certain conditions.

Understanding the eligibility criteria is crucial, and it’s as complex as it is varied. There are different statutes for drug offenses, dismissed charges, and nonviolent felonies, each with its own set of rules and potential for a clean slate.

Knowing which statute applies to your situation is the first step toward expunction.

Navigating the eligibility for expunction in North Carolina can feel like deciphering a complex code. Each statute has its criteria, its exceptions, and its pathways to clearing your record. Whether it’s a misdemeanor, a drug charge, or a nonviolent felony, the state offers a range of opportunities for a fresh start.

Improved Eligibility Standards

Thousands in North Carolina now have a chance to erase their criminal record, thanks to the Second Chance Act (SB 562) that went into effect in December 2021. This law broadens the scope for clearing “nonviolent” felony convictions from the past, though it comes with its set of detailed requirements.

Back in 2017, Senate Bill 522 had already made it simpler for individuals with criminal records to seek expungement. The 2021 updates go even further, offering more people the opportunity for a clean slate.

As of 2021, if you’ve had a nonviolent felony wiped from your record before December 1, 2021, you’re now eligible to clear up to two additional felony convictions.

The new law only applies if you committed the following offenses:

  • Before your recent expungement AND
  • Within the same 24-month period as the expunged felony

You can also receive expungement of previous nonviolent misdemeanors if you committed them before December 2021.

Considering Expungement

If you have previous felony convictions, consider working with an experienced expungement attorney to file a petition.

You can file for up to 3 nonviolent felony criminal conviction expungements if you:

  • Only committed nonviolent crimes
  • Meet the waiting period requirements. These vary in length depending on how many felonies you need to expunge.
  • Have paid any restitution which was associated with your felony crimes

Expungement lawyers help clear your record and give you more significant opportunities for a bright future.

Who is Eligible for Expungement in NC?

Expungement of nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies includes crimes like theft, drug possession, and fraud. North Carolina law used to allow fewer nonviolent felonies for expungement.

“Breaking and Entering of a Motor Vehicle” is no longer a “violent” felony and is now potentially eligible for expungement from your record.

You may be eligible for expungement for the following:

  • Up to three non-violent felony convictions
  • One or multiple non-violent misdemeanor convictions
  • A first-time conviction of certain offenses before age 18 or 22.
  • One or multiple convictions of certain offenses committed before age 18 and before December 1, 2019.
  • All dismissed or not-guilty charges
  • A conviction while a victim of human trafficking

What Crimes Are Never Eligible for Expungement?

Some crimes are not eligible for expungement because of their violent nature. These non-expungeable offenses include:

  • Violent felonies
  • Sex offenses
  • Crimes against children

A person’s criminal history is crucial to whether expungement is possible in NC.

The Role of an Expungement Lawyer

Picture this: you’re standing at the base of a mountain, and at the peak is your goal—expunging your criminal record in North Carolina. It looks daunting, doesn’t it? 

The path is steep, the regulations are dense, and the paperwork is overwhelming.

Now, imagine you have a seasoned guide, someone who knows every trail, shortcut, and hidden passageway. That’s your expungement lawyer.

Evaluating Eligibility

First things first, are you even on the right mountain? 

An expungement lawyer starts by determining if you qualify for expunction. It’s not just about whether you can apply but also about strategizing the best approach.

They take your hand and guide you through the NC statutes, making sense of the legal jargon. 

For instance, N.C.G.S. 15A-145.5 covers nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors, a common ground for many seeking expunction. Your lawyer knows this statute like the back of their hand and can quickly assess if your case fits.

Navigating Multiple Convictions

If your past is a bit more complicated, with multiple charges or convictions, don’t lose hope. Your lawyer is there to navigate through the complexities.

Some statutes allow for the expunction of several charges, while others are more restrictive. 

It’s like choosing the best climbing gear; each piece has its purpose, and your lawyer knows exactly what you need for your specific journey.

Guidance on Timing and Procedures

Timing is everything. Some statutes require you to wait a certain period before you can apply for expunction, while others allow immediate action.

The waiting period for expungement in NC depends on multiple factors. Here is a shorthand of the likely waiting periods: 

  • Single misdemeanor conviction: five years from the completion of your sentence
  • Multiple misdemeanor convictions: seven years from the completion of your most recent sentence
  • Single felony conviction: ten years from the completion of your sentence
  • Two or three felony convictions: twenty years from the completion of your most recent sentence

Your lawyer has an internal clock calibrated to the legal timelines. They’ll tell you when to move forward, ensuring you don’t waste a moment.

Plus, they’re familiar with the procedural nuances of filing your petition, from the necessary forms to the way you present your case to the court.

Choosing the Right Statute

This might be the most crucial role your lawyer plays. Selecting the wrong statute or not presenting your case effectively can lead to a denied petition.

Your lawyer’s experience and knowledge of statutes like NCGS 15A-146 for dismissed charges ensures you’re applying under the statute that maximizes your chances of success. It’s not just about getting to the top; it’s about choosing the right path to get there.

In the complex landscape of NC expunction law, an expungement lawyer is more than just a legal advisor. They are your guide, strategist, and advocate, ensuring you navigate the process with the best chance of clearing your record.

With their knowledge and experience, the daunting mountain of expunction becomes a journey you don’t have to face alone. They illuminate the path, support you through the challenges, and lead you toward a future unburdened by your past.

Filing for an Expunction

Now, let’s roll up our sleeves and get into the nitty-gritty of filing for an expunction in North Carolina.

It’s a bit like assembling a complex piece of furniture without the manual. There are lots of parts (the paperwork), the tools (necessary documents), and the final product (your expunged record).

But don’t worry. We’re here to guide you through each step, ensuring you have everything you need for a successful assembly.

The Filing Process

Imagine you’re preparing for a big journey. The first step? Packing your bags with everything you’ll need.

Filing for an expunction is similar. You start by gathering all the necessary forms, which are your roadmap to a clean record.

Each type of expunction has its own set of forms, tailored like a custom travel kit for your legal journey. 

You’ll fill out petitions, maybe some affidavits of good character, and other documents that tell the court, “I’m ready for a fresh start.”

Where to File

Knowing where to start your journey is crucial. In the world of expunctions, the first step to clear your record is obtaining a copy of your criminal record. 

At Scharff Law Firm, we will obtain an informal copy of your criminal record as part of a free consultation.

However, you can do this yourself by contacting the clerk-of-court in the county where you were convicted and paying to obtain an official criminal record report or submitting your fingerprints and a background request to the SBI.

Once you have your criminal record, fill out an expungement petition and file it with the clerk-of-court where the crime occurred.

For conviction-related expungements, you must notify the district attorney in the county of conviction and cover a filing fee. A judge may require a hearing to consider your expungement request, though not always in person.

Upon receiving a judge-signed expungement order, the clerk-of-court will direct state agencies like the NC Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement, and the State Bureau of Investigations to erase your criminal record from their systems.

The complexity of these laws and the specificity of each case underscore the value of experienced guidance.

An expungement lawyer doesn’t just understand these statutes. They know how to apply them to your unique situation, offering a personalized roadmap to clearing your name. This journey toward expunction is not just about erasing a record; it’s about reclaiming your future, step by detailed step.

It’s like knowing the right airport to fly out from. This step is your launchpad, and getting it right means you’re on the right track to reaching your destination.

The Cost

Let’s talk about the budget for your journey. Filing for an expunction typically comes with a $175 filing fee. Think of it as the ticket price for your legal journey.

However, not all expungements require this fee. For example, if your charges were dismissed, you might not need to pay at all.

And if the price of the ticket is too steep for your current budget, there’s a way to apply for a waiver, making sure this journey is accessible to everyone, regardless of financial standing.

The Duration

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to legal processes. The expunction journey can take several months, sometimes longer.

It’s a bit like waiting for that delayed flight to finally take off. The legal system needs time to check your records, process paperwork, and possibly schedule a hearing. 

Your attorney is like your travel agent in this scenario, keeping you updated on delays and progress and making sure everything is moving forward as smoothly as possible.

Embarking on the expunction process in North Carolina is a journey filled with paperwork, procedures, and patience. But with the right preparation and guidance, it’s a journey that can lead to a new horizon—a future without the shadow of a criminal record.

It’s about more than just clearing your legal history. It’s about reclaiming your freedom to move forward in life without the past holding you back.

After Expunged Criminal Records: What’s Next?

Congratulations! Imagine you’ve just received the news that your expunction petition has been granted. 

It’s a moment of pure relief, like finally reaching the summit after a challenging climb. But even after reaching the peak, there’s still the journey back down.

Post-expunction, there are a few steps and considerations to ensure that your path forward is as smooth and clear as the record now behind you.

Handling Online Information: Proving Expunged Records to Others

Think of your expunction as a big, powerful eraser that has wiped your slate clean. However, just because the court recognizes this erasure doesn’t mean that all traces disappear instantly from every corner of the internet or all databases.

If you find that your expunged charge or conviction still lurks in the shadows of public records or online, don’t panic. It’s just that the digital world takes a bit longer to catch up.

You might need to reach out directly to these sources, armed with the proof of your expunction, to clear away the lingering fog.

The Final Steps

Receiving your expunction order is a monumental achievement, akin to being handed a diploma after years of hard work. This document is your proof, your declaration that the courts have officially recognized your fresh start.

Treat it with care, knowing that, unlike a diploma, you might not be able to request a copy of this order in the future. The process of expunction includes destroying all files related to the criminal process.

It makes sense to scan copies into your digital cloud so that no matter what, you can always print another copy, even if it’s not the official one.

Your records prove your clean slate, but they also mean you need to keep your copy safe, as it’s the only one you’ll have.

Moving Forward with Confidence

With your expunction granted, you can stride into the future with a lighter step. Your criminal record no longer defines you or your opportunities. It’s a fresh start, an opportunity to redefine yourself and your path forward.

Remember, this isn’t just about what you’ve erased; it’s about what you’re building next. With the shadow of your past record lifted you can focus on your goals, aspirations, and the journey ahead with renewed energy and confidence.

Navigating life after an expunction is like stepping into a new chapter, filled with possibilities and the freedom to write your story on a clean page. It’s a testament to your resilience and commitment to moving forward.

As you take these next steps, remember the journey that brought you here and the lessons learned along the way. Your expunction is not just a legal victory; it’s a personal milestone, marking a new beginning and the promise of a brighter future.

Scharff Law Firm Can Help

At Scharff Law Firm, we understand navigating the court system and expungement laws can be overwhelming, especially when you’re looking to clear a criminal arrest from your record.

Expungement law is complex, and having your records expunged requires detailed knowledge of how to handle court hearings and meet the stringent criteria set out by the law.

As top-rated expungement attorneys, we focus on helping individuals remove criminal charges from their records. We aim to make the process as transparent and straightforward as possible for our clients.

Our team has extensive experience dealing with expungements and the steps necessary to clear your record.

We understand that everyone makes mistakes and believe in securing a second chance for our clients. Our goal is to help restore civil rights and improve prospects on job applications and other important life opportunities.

The impact of a criminal record on your life cannot be overstated. It can affect your eligibility for specific jobs, acceptance into educational institutions, and even your standing within the community.

With our assistance, many individuals have seen their criminal records expunged, allowing them to move forward without the burden of past mistakes shadowing their future opportunities.

Find Out If You’re Eligible

Get in touch with us at Scharff Law for a FREE consultation about your individual record. Our firm handles each case with the care and attention it deserves, recognizing that each client’s situation is unique.

Whether you’ve been found guilty on two separate occasions or are dealing with charges as a minor, our goal is to provide the needed assistance to navigate the expungement process successfully without additional cost or stress to you.

Dealing with the complexities of expungement law, from understanding court costs associated with the process to negotiating terms with prosecutors, requires top-notch legal representation. At Scharff Law Firm, we ensure that you have the best possible chance to expunge records and start fresh.

If you feel unsure about whether your offense is eligible for expungement, we would be glad to review your record. We offer a FREE consultation to advise you of your eligibility.

Get in touch today to get started. Find out how you can step into your second chance.