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How Do Expungements Work?

When you have a criminal record, there are harsh limits on your life. You may be struggling to get a job or having trouble finding an apartment and wondering how expungements work to remove criminal records from your permanent record.

Let’s look at the steps to get your criminal records expunged under North Carolina law.

Do Your Time

You don’t have to be limited by your past forever, but there is a waiting period to apply for expungement of criminal records. If your case was outright dismissed or you were found not guilty, you may be eligible for immediate expungement. 

Depending on your crime and when you committed it, your eligibility varies. Check out these guidelines to see when you can apply.

How Expungements Work

(1) One nonviolent misdemeanor: Expungement 5 years after the date of the conviction or when any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision is over.

(2) More than one nonviolent misdemeanor: Expungement 7 years after the date of the person’s last conviction or 7 years after any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision is over.

(3) One nonviolent felony: Expungement 10 years after the date of the conviction or 10 years after any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision is over.

If you are under the age of 18 and commit a traffic violation misdemeanor, you may be eligible for expunction in 2 years. Other crimes committed under the age of 18 may vary in length of time until you can apply for expungement.

Go to the Courthouse

To file your petition for expungement, go to the court of the county where you were convicted. Because of the complexity of the laws surrounding a filing for expunction, contacting a criminal defense attorney to walk you through the process is best for a quick turnaround time. Any mistakes can cause your petition to be denied or sent back to you for correction.

Affidavits & Applications

At the courthouse, you will file an affidavit stating that you have good moral character and have not been convicted of any other felony or misdemeanor, other than a traffic violation, under the laws of the United States or the laws of NC or any other state during the applicable 5, 7, or 10-year waiting period. You will also file an affidavit stating that no restitution orders or civil judgments for restitution are still outstanding.

You will also need to find two people who are not related to you by blood or marriage who will file affidavits stating that they know your character and reputation in your community and that your character and reputation are good. 

Part of the process is also making a statement that you are petitioning a motion in the case where you were convicted. You will then fill out an application authorizing the court to do a background check on you to discover any outstanding warrants on pending criminal cases and to search for any other confidential records of expunctions.

Your Application is Filed

After you complete the paperwork, your application will be filed with the clerk of superior court who will forward it to the Department of Public Safety and to the Administrative Office of the Courts.

They will report their findings to the court and the district attorney has 30 days to file any objection. Sometimes the court will give the district attorney more time if they need it.

The Hearing

The district attorney makes an effort to contact the victim, if any, to notify them of your request for expunction The victim has a right to be present at any hearing on the petition for expunction and the victim’s views and concerns shall be considered by the court at such hearing.

If there is a hearing, you will also be notified and can be present. The judge may also call on a probation officer for any additional investigation or verification of your conduct since the conviction. 

The court then reviews any other information the court deems relevant, including affidavits, other testimony provided by law enforcement officers, district attorneys, or victims of crimes you committed.

The Verdict

The court, after hearing your petition for expunction may order that you be restored to the status you occupied before the arrest or indictment. However, there are many reasons that the court may find you ineligible for an expunction. The process is in depth and depends on precise matters of North Carolina law.

State law no longer limits how many expungements a person may secure at once. However, multiple expungements are only permissible if the convictions occurred within 12 months of each other.

You Can Be Free Again

If you meet all of the requirements for expunction, it is possible to have your record expunged and move forward with your life as if you had not committed the crime you were convicted for. Prosecutors and law enforcement officials will retain access to all records, but companies that sell your background information to businesses can be liable for reporting an expunged conviction.

At Scharff Law, we want to help you through the process of getting your record expunged. It is not an easy application process and there are multiple requirements that if not met can exclude you from receiving expunction. Let us walk you through the process and give you the best possible chance at a life free from your criminal record. Contact us today and get started with your application.