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Expunge Your Record: Your NC Guide to Starting Fresh


Welcome to your first step towards a new beginning! At Scharff Law Firm, we understand that learning you can expunge your record might seem surprising and a little daunting too. It’s a process filled with legal terms and procedures that might feel distant from your everyday life.

But imagine the possibilities—removing a hurdle that has been standing in the way of job opportunities, housing, or even peace of mind. That’s what we are here for.

Here in North Carolina, “expunge” means more than just erasing a record; it’s about offering you a fresh start. This guide is designed to walk you through each step of the expungement process, from understanding what types of records can be expunged to navigating the court system and filing the necessary forms.

Whether you are dealing with a misdemeanor, a felony, or an arrest that did not lead to a conviction, the road to clearing your name is often navigable with the right guidance.

Our team at Scharff Law Firm brings a deep commitment to justice and a detailed understanding of North Carolina’s expungement laws. We’re not just your attorneys; we’re your advocates, your guides, and your support through this process. 

We’ll help you determine if you are eligible for expungement and discuss what an expungement order could mean for your future.

We believe that everyone deserves a fair shot at rewriting their story. If you’re ready to take that step, we’re here to empower you with knowledge and support you every step of the way.

Let’s turn the page together and start crafting a new chapter in your life.

How Does Expungement Work in North Carolina?

Understanding how to expunge your record in North Carolina can be the key to unlocking doors that seemed permanently closed due to past mistakes. 

If you’ve ever felt held back by a criminal record when applying for jobs, securing housing, or even advancing educationally, then grasping this process could be crucial for you.

Expungement in North Carolina involves several steps, each tailored to ensure that past offenses do not unjustly define your future.

Do You Qualify for Expungement?

Initially, you must determine if your record qualifies for expungement. North Carolina law has specific criteria for expungement eligibility. These criteria depend on the 

  • Nature of the offense
  • Whether it was a felony or misdemeanor
  • Amount of time that has passed since the conviction or arrest

Filing An Expungement Petition

Once you’ve established eligibility, the next step is to file an expungement petition with the court. This document is vital as it formally requests the removal of your criminal record from various databases.

It’s not merely about filing a piece of paper. This is your chance to obliterate past convictions from public access. There’s typically a filing fee involved, but the state waives the fee if you are indigent. 

Part of the petition process is proving you have good moral character. Working with an expungement attorney can help ensure your petition shows your best side and dots every i and crosses every t.

The Court Reviews Your Petition and Makes a Decision

The court then reviews your petition. During this phase, the details of your past offenses are scrutinized, including the court records and any evidence related to the case.

The court may require a hearing if there is an objection by the district attorney or if the court finds a need to resolve factual disputes related to the expungement application. In this case, your attorney can represent you and make the best case for your expungement.

After thorough evaluation, if the court decides in your favor, an expungement order is issued. This order directs that your arrest, court, and criminal records be erased—or expunged—from public databases, essentially giving you a clean slate.

It’s as if the offenses never occurred. There’s no trace in the public eye, allowing you a fair chance at opportunities you might have been denied previously.

Remember, the goal of expungement is not just to erase a record but to restore your status in the community. It acknowledges that people change and that the law can reflect that change.

At Scharff Law Firm, we’re committed to guiding you through each step, ensuring that the process is clear and that you feel supported throughout.

We believe in second chances and are here to help you achieve yours. So, let’s start this journey together toward hope and a brighter future.

What Types of Criminal Records Can Be Expunged in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the types of criminal records that can be expunged vary based on several factors, including:

  • Nature of the offense
  • Age of the individual at the time of the offense
  • Amount of time that has passed since the conviction or charge

Here are the main categories of records eligible for expungement:

1- Expunge First-Time Nonviolent Offenses

Adults who have been convicted of a first-time, nonviolent offense may petition for expungement. This generally covers certain misdemeanors and low-level felonies. The waiting period for these expungements can vary, but typically, it is a significant period during which the individual must not commit any further offenses.

Misdemeanor and felony convictions are eligible, provided they are non-violent in nature. Specific expungement statutes in NC list the exceptions.

2- Expunge Juvenile Records

Juvenile records are often eligible for expungement, especially if the offenses were nonviolent and the individual has not been involved in further criminal activity. The aim here is to prevent youthful mistakes from causing lifelong consequences.

Generally, only those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the offense can petition for expungement of certain misdemeanors or non-violent felonies.

3- Expunge Drug Offenses

For individuals convicted of certain drug-related offenses, especially those related to possession, North Carolina law may allow for expungement. This is particularly relevant for first-time offenders and is contingent on the completion of any court-ordered programs or probation.

4- Expunge Charges Resulting in Dismissal or Acquittal

If charges against an individual were dismissed or acquitted, they typically qualify for expungement. This helps to clear the names of individuals charged but found not guilty of a crime.

5- Expunge Convictions for Prostitution

Special provisions also exist for the expungement of certain convictions related to prostitution, recognizing the complex socio-economic factors that often contribute to such charges.

Each category has specific eligibility requirements and procedural steps that must be followed to successfully petition for an expungement.

The decision of the courts can significantly impact an individual’s ability to secure employment, housing, and educational opportunities. Expungement is a critical aspect of criminal law in North Carolina.

What Happens to Court Records After An Expungement?

Expunged records in North Carolina change your legal status and give you a fresh start. Understanding what happens to your court records after they’re expunged is key to fully appreciating the impact of this legal relief.

Once a court approves your expungement request, the effect on your court records is profound: they are effectively erased. In legal terms, to expunge means to “obliterate” or “destroy” records so that there is no trace of your case in the public record.

It’s as though the arrest, charge, or conviction never happened. This process involves removing your name and details from court files, police records, and online databases that track criminal histories.

Here’s what typically happens:

Court Order Issued

The court issues an expungement order directing all agencies holding records of the offense to erase them. This includes local police departments, the SBI, and other jurisdictions where the records might exist.

Destruction or Sealing of Records

Depending on the specifics of your case and local law, the records may be completely destroyed or simply sealed from public view. If records are sealed, they still exist but are inaccessible to the public and most agencies.

If they are destroyed, all physical and digital traces of the records are removed.

Background Checks

After your records are expunged, a background check which uses formal court resources should not reveal any arrests, charges, or convictions that have been expunged. This means better chances at finding housing, securing employment, and other opportunities that might have been limited by a criminal record. Your record may still appear in background checks completed by third-parties. But in that scenario, you’ll be armed with an expungement order to make them correct it. 

Legal Denial of Offense

Legally, you have the right to deny the offense ever occurred. For example, if asked on a job application if you have been convicted of a crime, you can lawfully answer “no” if the conviction has been expunged.

No Automatic Process for Dismissals and Acquittals

It’s important to understand that records aren’t expunged automatically after a dismissal or acquittal—you must file a request. This process usually involves a filing fee, submitting the expungement petition, and sometimes a court hearing.

The power to expunge a record is a significant aspect of North Carolina law. It reflects a belief in second chances and the capacity for individuals to change.

We Can Help

At Scharff Law Firm, we stand ready to guide you through this process, ensuring that your rights are protected and your future is not defined by past mistakes.

By clearing your record, we help clear the path to a brighter future. If you have questions or need help navigating this life-changing process, reach out to us for a FREE consultation.

Let’s complete this journey together.