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Expungement in NC: How to Remove a Criminal Record

In December 2021, the North Carolina General Assembly expanded the state’s expungement requirements with Senate Bill 562. Even more eligibility is now available for the expungement of criminal records. If you are wondering whether you are now eligible for expungement or if you would like help clearing your criminal record, read on.

The Daily Tar Heel reported, “Frank Baumgartner, a professor of political science at UNC… discovered that 64 percent of all people with convictions only had one felony, and less than 10 percent of them were charged with felonies in the highest categories (classes A-D).”

He went on to say, “When people say felony, we think that it’s a violent crime, but actually about 80 percent of felonies relate to drug possession. It’s a lot of very low-level stuff.”

Improved Eligibility in 2022

You could be one of the thousands in North Carolina who are now eligible to live without a criminal record. The Second Chance Act (SB 562) went into effect in December of 2021 and “expanded the opportunity for a person to expunge older convictions of “nonviolent” felonies but with complex eligibility conditions.” (1, 2) 

Senate Bill 522 in 2017 previously expanded eligibility for expungement of criminal records. It made it easier for people with criminal convictions to have their records cleared, but the new changes in 2021 added even more possibilities for a clean record!

For 2021, 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 new 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.

Considering Expungement

If you have previous felony convictions and have not yet considered expungement, consider working with an attorney to file a petition. You can file for up to 3 nonviolent felony conviction expungements if you:

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

A 2016 study by the National Institute of Justice found that “more than one in three American adults have criminal records.” In North Carolina, that number is likely even higher. A criminal record can make finding employment, housing, and education difficult. It can also lead to further involvement with the justice system.

Working with an attorney to clear your record can give you more significant opportunities in the workplace, as a volunteer, renting or buying a home, or networking as you meet new people who may find your criminal history online.

Who is Eligible for Expungement in NC in 2022?

You are eligible for expungement of nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies. This eligibility includes crimes like theft, drug possession, and fraud. Before 2017, fewer nonviolent felonies were eligible for expungement, and the process was often long and complex.

One of the changes which has an enormous impact on the ability of people to expunge their felony is that NC removed “Breaking and Entering of a Motor Vehicle” from the list of “violent” felonies. This means that if you have a conviction of “Breaking and Entering of a Motor Vehicle,” it is now potentially eligible to be expunged from your record for the first time. 

The process in 2022 is now more streamlined and includes more individuals. Here are a few examples of what is now eligible for expungement:

  • 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 Not Eligible For Expungement in NC?

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

  • Violent felonies
  • Sex offenses
  • Crimes against children

If you are unsure whether your offense is eligible for expungement, we would be glad to review your record as part of a free consultation and advise you of your eligibility.

How Long Do I Have to Wait for Expungement of My Record?

The waiting period for expungement in NC depends on whether you are trying to expunge a misdemeanor or a felony and if you have just one conviction or multiple. 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

If you have faced denial for an expungement in the past, you may now be eligible, but it is imperative to work with an attorney for your petition to give you the best chance of success.

Check out the eligibility requirements chart at NCSecondChance.org for more information or talk with us at Scharff Law for a free consultation about your individual record.

How to Get an Expungement?

If you possess a conviction that is now eligible for expungement, you may wonder how to clear your record. The first step is to obtain 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 obtaining an official criminal record report or submitting your fingerprints and a background request to the SBI.

Once you have your criminal record, you will need to fill out an expungement petition and file it with the clerk-of-court. 

If the expungement is for a conviction, you will also need to serve a copy of the petition on the district attorney in the county where you were convicted and pay a filing fee. You may need to attend a hearing before a judge, who will decide whether to grant the expungement. Sometimes an in-person hearing is not required. 

If you receive an expungement order signed by a judge, the clerk-of-court will issue an order to have your criminal record expunged to other state agencies such as the NC Department of Public Safety, local law enforcement, and the State Bureau of Investigations. Those departments will then update their records to purge your conviction.

A criminal defense attorney can help you determine if you are eligible for expungement and guide you through the process. The new laws are complex, with eligibility based on several factors, including the nature of the offense, when it occurred, and whether you received an earlier expungement.

An attorney can help make sure that your application is complete and accurate so that you have the best chance of having your record cleared. 

We Can Help

If you have any questions about expungement in North Carolina or would like help clearing your criminal record, please contact us. We are here to help.

At Scharff Law, we understand the newest expungement laws and how to help you get out from under a heavy criminal record. No one wants others to label them based on past mistakes. Because of the recent legal changes in North Carolina, you have more chance than ever of qualifying to receive complete expungement of your criminal record.

We focus on the legal details to improve your chances of getting a clean record. Discuss your situation with us for free if you’re unsure about your case. Our expungements legal team is ready to look at your circumstances and help you understand your best next step. Contact us and find out how we can help.


  1. S.L. 2021-118 (S 301), as amended by section 2.3 of S.L. 2021-167 (H 761)
  2. https://nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/2021-changes-to-north-carolinas-expunction-laws/# 
  3. https://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2021/09/city-sb301-expanding-felony-expunctions 
  4. https://www.nccourts.gov/help-topics/court-records/expunctions 
  5. https://www.ncjustice.org/publications/2022-summary-of-north-carolina-expunctions/ 
  6. https://ncsecondchance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Expungement-Eligibility-in-NC-Overview-1-pager.pdf
  7. https://ncsecondchance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Updated-Summary-of-NC-Expunctions-2021-Final.pdf