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Expunge NC Criminal Records: Frequently Asked Questions

expunge nc

Are you carrying the weight of past mistakes? You might be seeking a fresh start through expungement in North Carolina. Recent changes to the state’s expungement laws have made more people eligible and simplified the process.

If you’re wondering if your crimes can be expunged or if you’re looking for a way to lighten your load, let’s explore the process together and find a brighter future with new opportunities.

What Is Expungement in North Carolina?

First off, expungement can clear your criminal record if you are eligible. When eligible, it’s like erasing past mistakes and starting fresh to write your future.

It’s possible to clear multiple misdemeanor convictions or a felony conviction or three! 

Recent laws, including the Second Chance Act, expanded eligibility, allowing an expunged criminal record for more people, especially if they are non-violent misdemeanor convictions.

There are fewer restrictions on the number of expungements one can receive. With multiple charges, you could have one eligible charge while another is ineligible for expungement. The expungement of multiple nonviolent felony convictions is possible if the offense convictions occurred at the same session of court.

Who Is Eligible for Expungement?

Violent or sexual offenses and DWI/ DUIs are not eligible. However, many crimes are eligible due to new laws in NC.

First-Time Non-Violent Felony Convictions

If you have a non-violent felony conviction in North Carolina but have since changed your ways, you may have the opportunity to have it expunged. This means that if you made a mistake years ago and it resulted in a felony on your record, you might be able to have it removed, especially if it was your only offense and it wasn’t for a violent crime.

This is particularly important for young adults who have faced felony charges. The state recognizes that people can change and shouldn’t be defined forever by a single mistake.

Misdemeanor Conviction

Many misdemeanor convictions can be expunged. This is especially true for individuals who were under 18 or 21 at the time of conviction, depending on the nature of the offense.

Whether it was a small theft or a traffic violation, these criminal record misdemeanors can disappear, providing you with a clearer path forward.

Dismissals and Acquittals

If you were charged with a crime but the charges were later dismissed, or you received a not guilty verdict, you could have these arrest records completely wiped clean. It’s as if the charges were never brought against you in the first place.

This type of expunction acknowledges that if the criminal justice system didn’t find sufficient evidence to convict you, then these charges shouldn’t hang over your head.

Drug Convictions

Certain drug offenses, particularly possession-related ones, may be eligible for expungement from your record. This option is usually available for first-time offenders who have since stayed out of trouble.

It reflects the state’s acknowledgment that individuals can change and that past drug offenses shouldn’t always determine someone’s future.

Human Trafficking Victims

Victims of human trafficking have the right to request expungement of any convictions related to their victimization. 

This legal provision serves as a crucial opportunity for those who were compelled into illegal actions, recognizing their status as victims and providing a path to regain their lives and civil rights.

Juvenile Records

For individuals who committed offenses as juveniles, North Carolina permits the court to expunge certain juvenile records. 

This offers a second chance, acknowledging that the actions of our youth should not overly impact our adult lives, particularly when we have shown growth and change.

How Long is the Waiting Period For an Expungement?

The law requires a waiting period before you can apply to have your record cleared of convictions. Dismissals and not guilty cases are eligible for expungement immediately with no waiting period.

These times vary based on the crime. The wait time to file a petition for expungement was 15 years, but now, you can apply sooner.

  • For nonviolent misdemeanors, expungement is generally available five years after the conviction or when you finish any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision.
  • With more than one nonviolent misdemeanor, you can file an expungement petition seven years after your last conviction or seven years after you finish any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision. 
  • Waiting periods may be shorter depending on the charge and your age at the time of conviction. If your conviction happened before December 2019 and you were 16 or 17 years old at the time, you can apply immediately.

Some offenses committed might require a waiting period after the completion of a sentence, or they may have different rules based on how the case concluded (dismissal, acquittal, etc.). It depends on different expungement statutes for different types of crimes.

How Does an Expungement Attorney Help?

Navigating the expungement process might seem complex, but getting the right legal help is crucial. A criminal defense lawyer can tell you if your offense is eligible for expungement and help you understand North Carolina’s expungement laws.

Consult a criminal defense lawyer for tailored advice and guidance if you need more information, such as:

  • Exact eligibility criteria
  • Required waiting periods
  • Technical steps to pursue expungement

Who Sees Criminal Records After Expungement in North Carolina?

Employers, educational institutions, and some government agencies will no longer see these past convictions on background checks. Companies that sell your background information to businesses can be liable for reporting an expunged conviction.

However, prosecutors will retain access to all criminal records.

Where Can I Read the North Carolina Statutes on Expungement?

Read more about the North Carolina General Statutes on Expungement for yourself. Talk with us at Scharff Law for your FREE consultation about your eligibility for expungement.

  • If you have a misdemeanor conviction, a specific law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145(a), covers expunging these.
  • For those involved in gang-related offenses, there’s another law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145.1, just for those situations.
  • Now, onto drug offenses. If you got your drug charges dismissed because you completed a special program (conditional discharge), you’d look at N.C.G.S. 15A-145.2(a) if it’s under certain sections of the law (G.S. 90-96(a) or (a1)).
  • If your drug charges were just dismissed or you were found not guilty, check out N.C.G.S. 15A-145.2(b)
  • And if you were convicted for drug or drug paraphernalia offenses, you’d refer to N.C.G.S. 15A-145.2(c).
  • Toxic vapor offenses have their own set of rules. If those charges were dismissed after you completed a program, see N.C.G.S. 15A-145.3(a). If they were just dismissed or you were acquitted, then it’s N.C.G.S. 15A-145.3(b) you’re looking at. And for actual convictions of toxic vapors offenses, you’d go to N.C.G.S. 15A-145.3(c).
  • For young folks under 18 who messed up but it wasn’t violent, there’s a law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145.4, that helps clear nonviolent felony convictions. And for nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors in general, there are laws too, both listed under N.C.G.S. 15A-145.5.
  • Prostitution offenses have their own path to expungement with N.C.G.S. 15A-145.6
  • And for any criminal charge or alcohol-related infraction that was dismissed but not through a special program (and this started effective December 1, 2014), you’d look at N.C.G.S. 15A-146(a) or 15A-146(a1).
  • If your charge was for identity theft but you were found not guilty or the charge was set aside by the court, there’s a law for that, N.C.G.S. 15A-147(a). And if your charges were dismissed because of mistaken identity or identity theft, there’s also a specific statute, N.C.G.S. 15A-147(a1).
  • For folks who had a conviction overturned on appeal or were granted a pardon of innocence, there’s N.C.G.S. 15A-148.
  • And if you were convicted but later received a pardon of innocence, the law you’d look at is N.C.G.S. 15A-149.

In simpler terms, North Carolina has laws designed to help people clear their records under various circumstances, whether it’s a one-time mistake in youth, a nonviolent felony, drug charges, or being wrongfully accused. 

Each type of offense has its own set of rules to follow for getting that fresh start.

How Do I File An Expungement Petition?

Clearing a criminal record in North Carolina requires following a structured process requiring several steps:

1. Are You Eligible?

First, you should determine whether the crime you committed is eligible for expungement. Not all crimes can be expunged, as the eligibility criteria vary. In North Carolina, a range of offenses, from minor misdemeanors to specific felony convictions, are eligible, but not all criminal offenses qualify. Violent crimes and certain felonies, for example, are often not eligible for expungement.

If you find yourself feeling confused about your eligibility after reading the above sections, seek further guidance.Talk with us at Scharff Law for a FREE consultation about your eligibility to start the expungement process.

2. Affidavit and Background Check

In order to expunge most convictions, it’s important to sign an affidavit affirming your good moral character and lack of recent convictions. Additionally, don’t forget to authorize a background check and gather all necessary supporting documents. This process is key to ensuring a successful expungement, similar to preparing everything needed for a trip.

At Scharff Law, we provide you with this affidavit, answer any questions you have, and file it for you with the expungement petition

3. Find Witnesses to File Affidavits

As part of the process, you need to find two people who are not related to you or to each other by blood or marriage. They will need to file affidavits stating that your character and reputation in your community are good.

4. File a Petition for a Motion

The next step is to file a petition in the county where the conviction occurred. This is like setting the starting point for your journey. You will need to make a statement to the Clerk of the Superior Court that you are filing in the case of your past conviction. Additionally, you will have to serve the petition on the district attorney.

After filing, the petition will go through the following steps:

  1. A judge will review your request and send your petition to the State Bureau of Investigation for a background check.
  2. The State Bureau of Investigation will send the entire application to the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). The AOC will then verify if you have had any prior convictions expunged.
  3. Your petition returns to the local judge for a final ruling on your expungement request.

5. Pay Court Fees or File As An Indigent

Filing a petition comes with a fee, typically $175. However, the state waives this fee if you file as indigent.

6. Court Hearing

It’s important to note that depending on the type of expunction, you may be required to attend a court hearing. During this hearing, the court will assess your petition and determine whether your record can be expunged. Having an experienced expungement attorney by your side can make this process much easier for you!

7. Waiting for the Verdict 

After reviewing your petition for expungement, the court may order the restoration of your status to before the arrest or indictment. However, the court may find you ineligible for an expungement. This is when having an experienced and knowledgeable expungement attorney becomes crucial in order to address these issues proactively.

Expungement cases are not simple, as they depend on precise matters of North Carolina law, which are constantly evolving.

If the court grants your expunction, they will issue an order to clear your record. The order is sent out to various law enforcement agencies and other relevant parties, instructing them to remove your record.

7. Finalizing the Expungement Order

After the court issues an expungement order, the clerk will send the order to various state and government agencies to expunge their records. 

If you meet all the requirements for expungement, you can have your record expunged and move forward with your life.

What If I Already Received An Expungement?

If you received a nonviolent felony conviction expungement before December 1, 2021, you can obtain an expungement of up to two more felony convictions. 

The law only applies if you committed the 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 committed before December 2021.

Are There Attorneys That Charge a Flat Fee for Expungement?

Some expungement lawyers, like the Scharff Law Firm, provide flat-fee services, making it easier for you to budget for your expungement. With this fee structure, you will know the total cost upfront, helping you to avoid any surprises.

Scharff Law Offers a Free Expungement Consultation

At Scharff Law, we recognize that the expungement process can be challenging to navigate. With laws that can often feel as complex as a spider’s web, knowing where to begin, which steps to take, and how to achieve the best possible outcome can seem overwhelming. But that’s where we can make a difference.

We bring a wealth of experience, empathy, and a deep understanding of North Carolina’s expungement laws. We don’t just guide you through the process; we walk alongside you every step of the way.

From the initial assessment of your eligibility to the final submission of your petition, our goal is to simplify and clarify the path towards clearing your record.

Whether it’s a misdemeanor, a non-violent felony, or a dismissed charge, we’re prepared to evaluate your situation and customize our approach to your unique case. We consider your individual circumstances and pursue the path that offers the best chance of success.

Beyond providing legal assistance, we also offer support and understanding. We understand that behind every expungement case is a person seeking to move forward from past mistakes, looking for opportunities for employment, education, and a brighter future. 

At Scharff Law, we’re committed to being your advocates and partners in obtaining your second chance.

So, if you’re feeling weighed down by a criminal record that no longer reflects who you are, we encourage you to reach out to us. Let’s work together to clear the path, opening doors to new possibilities and helping you step confidently into the next chapter of your life.

With Scharff Law, you’re not alone. Together, we can navigate the complexities of expungement and move closer to a future defined not by your past but by your potential.