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How to Expunge Record in North Carolina: What You Need to Know

expunge record

If you want to expunge records of past crimes in North Carolina, understanding the steps can empower you to reclaim your future. Whether you’re burdened by a minor misdemeanor or a more serious felony from your past, the law offers a route to clear your slate. 

However, not all crimes are eligible for expungement. And, the process can be intricate, involving court orders, meticulous filing of forms, and possibly, legal arguments before a judge.

The good news is if you’re eligible to expunge your record, it’s as if the conviction or arrest never happened. This means that background checks for jobs or apartments won’t haunt you with past mistakes. The process typically involves filing a request for expungement with the court, paying any associated filing fees, and waiting for the court’s decision to seal your record from public view.

Expungement isn’t automatic; it requires meeting certain conditions and often navigating complex legal regulations. However, once your record is expunged, the freedom it brings is transformative—opening doors to previously closed opportunities.

If you’re ready to start this journey, gathering all relevant information about your past charges and any court interactions is crucial. This initial step can be the most challenging but also the most critical in moving toward a clearer future.

How to Expunge Record of Criminal Convictions in North Carolina

Understanding Your Eligibility

Before diving into the expungement process in North Carolina, it’s crucial to determine if your criminal record is eligible for expungement. North Carolina laws have specific criteria for which types of crimes can be expunged, generally focusing on nonviolent misdemeanors and felonies.

Recent legal changes have expanded eligibility, allowing more people to apply for expungement, especially for crimes committed at a younger age or that were dismissed.

Gathering Necessary Documents

Once you determine your eligibility, the next step is to gather all necessary documents. This includes obtaining a copy of your criminal record, which is essential as it details the convictions you wish to expunge. You’ll also need to fill out an expungement petition form, which is available through the North Carolina court system.

For some petitions, additional documents such as character affidavits may be required. These documents underline your standing in the community and confirm that you meet all legal conditions for expungement.

Filing the Petition

Filing your petition is where you officially request the expungement of your record. This step involves submitting your completed petition and any additional documents to the clerk of the superior court in the county where the charge or conviction occurred.

There’s typically a filing fee involved, though it may be waived under certain conditions. It’s crucial to ensure that all paperwork is correctly filled out and submitted to avoid delays or denials.

What Happens After Filing?

After you file the petition, the process involves a review by the court and possibly a hearing. In some cases, the district attorney will have a chance to review and respond to your petition. If your petition is successful, the court will issue an order to expunge your record, which is then processed through various state and federal agencies to remove your conviction from public access and seal it from most background checks.

However, it’s important to note that expunged records may still be accessible to certain government agencies under specific conditions.

Local Variances and Legal Assistance

Expungement procedures can vary slightly by county, so it’s essential to understand the local rules of the county where the conviction or charge occurred. Due to the complexities of the expungement laws and the precision required in the paperwork, many choose to work with an expungement lawyer.

A lawyer can help navigate the legal nuances, ensure timely filing, and increase the likelihood of a successful expungement.

The journey to expunging your record in North Carolina can significantly impact your future, opening doors that might have been closed due to past mistakes. While the process may seem daunting, taking it step by step can lead to a cleaner slate and a better path forward.

Which Criminal Records Are Eligible for Expungement in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, the statutes from N.C.G.S. 15A-145 to 15A-149 outline various conditions under which individuals can apply for expunction of their criminal records. Here’s a detailed guide based on these statutes:

  • Misdemeanor Convictions (15A-145(a)): First-time misdemeanor offenders, except for traffic violations, can petition for expungement. This is typically available if the individual has no prior felony convictions.
  • Gang Offenses (15A-145.1): First offenders under the age of 18 at the time of conviction can seek expungement for certain gang-related offenses.
  • Drug Offenses (15A-145.2):
    • Conditional Discharge (15A-145.2(a)): For drug offenses dismissed following a conditional discharge under G.S. 90-96(a) or (a1), individuals can apply for expunction.
    • Dismissal/Acquittal (15A-145.2(b)): Expunction is available for drug offenses that are dismissed or result in an acquittal.
    • Drug Convictions (15A-145.2(c)): Convictions specifically related to drug or drug paraphernalia offenses are eligible for expungement for certain youthful offenders.
  • Toxic Vapors Offenses (15A-145.3):
    • Conditional Discharge (15A-145.3(a)): Similar to certain drug offenses, expunction is available for toxic vapors offenses dismissed after a conditional discharge.
    • Dismissal/Acquittal (15A-145.3(b)): This applies to toxic vapors or drug paraphernalia offenses that are dismissed or where the defendant is acquitted.
    • Toxic Vapors Convictions (15A-145.3(c)): Convictions for toxic vapors offenses can be expunged for certain youthful offenders. 
  • Nonviolent Felonies (15A-145.4 and 15A-145.5):
    • Under Age 18 (15A-145.4): Nonviolent felonies committed by individuals who were under 18 at the time of the offense can be expunged.
    • General Nonviolent Felonies (15A-145.5): Applies to nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors not covered by other specific provisions.
  • Prostitution Offenses (15A-145.6): Individuals with certain prostitution-related offenses can seek expungement, particularly if the offense was a result of being trafficked.
  • General Dismissals and Acquittals (15A-146): This covers criminal charges, including alcohol infractions before December 1, 1999, that were dismissed or resulted in a not guilty verdict.
  • Identity Theft (15A-147): Charges dismissed due to identity theft or mistaken identity are eligible for expungement.
  • DNA Records (15A-148): Applies if a conviction is reversed on appeal or if a pardon of innocence is granted, allowing for the expungement of DNA records related to the case.

These statutes provide a framework for those seeking to clear their records under various scenarios, from drug-related offenses to mistaken identity cases. Each statute specifies conditions under which an expunction is possible.

Expunction (expungement) laws reflect North Carolina’s approach to giving individuals a second chance by removing certain eligible offenses from public record.

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we understand the complexities and nuances of North Carolina’s expungement laws. Our experienced attorneys have a strong track record of helping individuals navigate the legal maze to clear their records and start anew. 

Whether you’re dealing with misdemeanors, nonviolent felonies, or specific charges like drug or toxic vapors offenses, we’re here to provide experienced guidance and advocacy.

We know every case is unique, and we take the time to listen to your story, understand your objectives, and develop a personalized strategy tailored to your specific circumstances. Our team is well-versed in the various statutes and recent changes in the law, ensuring that we can offer you the most current and effective legal advice.

You don’t have to navigate the expungement process alone. With Scharff Law on your side, you can expect a committed partner who will fight for your right to a fresh start. 

We handle all the paperwork, court interactions, and meticulous details involved in your expungement petition, aiming for a successful outcome that lets you move forward in life without the shadow of past convictions.

If you’re ready to take the next step towards clearing your record, contact us today to schedule a free consultation. 

Together, we can explore your options and put you on the path to restoring your good name and securing your future.