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How Long Does a Misdemeanor Stay on Your Record?

While a misdemeanor is not as serious as a felony, you can still face problems with background checks. When you apply for a job or a new apartment, others make assumptions about you.

While a misdemeanor charge does not automatically fall off your record, there is an expungement process that removes your criminal charges from public knowledge. In North Carolina, the waiting period for expungement has recently changed due to new laws and is only five years for a single misdemeanor conviction or 7 years to expunge multiple misdemeanor convictions.

An expungement effectively removes your criminal arrest, charge, and conviction record and destroys the public record. It is possible to clear your criminal conviction history with expungement.


If you complete an expungement and the judge agrees to clear your record, your conviction is no longer public knowledge. When you fill out an employment or lease application, you can legally answer that you have never been convicted of a misdemeanor. If you are under sworn testimony in court, you can lawfully state that you have not been convicted of a misdemeanor in the past.

After the court expunges your record, you can truthfully answer “No” to employment applications that ask if you have been convicted of a misdemeanor. With an expungement, you can also answer “No” in a court of law if asked if you have a criminal record.


The law in North Carolina has recently changed. If you have dismissed or not guilty charges, you can apply for expungement, even with other crimes on your record. There is no limit to the number of dismissed and not guilty charges that you can expunge. 

It is still critical to go through the process to expunge charges that were dismissed or where you were found not guilty. These will continue to appear on your criminal background record and will often still impact your ability to find employment, housing, school, etc. 


The wait time to apply for expungement was 15 years, but you can apply sooner to clear your mistakes because of changes in North Carolina law. If your conviction was a nonviolent misdemeanor, expungement is generally available only five years after the conviction date, or when any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision is over whichever is later.

Let’s look at if you have more than one nonviolent misdemeanor. In that case, you can apply for expungement seven years after the date of your last conviction, or seven years after any sentence, probation, or post-release supervision is over whichever is later. 

The period may even be shorter depending on the charge and your age at the time of conviction. If your conviction was before December 2019 and you were 16 or 17 years old at the time, you qualify. In this case, you can apply immediately.


The process of expungement is not immediate and takes time to complete. You must file an application complete with affidavits and character references who are not related to each other or you. After writing your affidavits, your attorney will file your application with the superior court clerk and serve the petition on the district attorney. 

A judge will review your request and send the application to the State Bureau of Investigation, where they will complete your background check. They will then send the entire application to the Administrative Office of the Courts to verify if you have had prior convictions expunged. Finally, the application will be returned to the local judge for a final ruling on your expungement request.  

Sometimes, you may be required to appear before the judge for a hearing before a ruling. In rare cases, witnesses testify at the hearing also. You must know legal codes to complete the expungement process and come out the other side with a clean record. Because of the complexity of the application process, it is best to contact your attorney to take you through each step.


The process of expungement can take anywhere from 6 months to a year. Often, the systems and administrative offices doing background checks are overloaded and can run behind, so it is best to get started early and talk with your attorney to determine the best time to apply. Because there are so many people and systems involved in the process, you may need to be patient. However, having a clean record again is worth it.


Working with an experienced attorney can give you confidence through the expungement process. A knowledgeable attorney can prepare you for what to expect and help you understand the laws involved. Protect your legal right to expungement by making the best case for your record expungement. Talk to us at Scharff Law before making your application so that we can serve your legal interests in a system where the odds are often stacked against you.