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What Crimes Can Be Expunged in North Carolina?

what crimes can be expunged

Imagine you’re carrying a heavy backpack filled with the weight of past mistakes. Now, what if you could set that backpack down for good? The power of expungement is in its fresh start, a second chance at a life unburdened by the past. But what crimes can be expunged in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s laws on expungement (the process of removing a conviction or a dismissal from your record) are like keys to a do-over. Whether you’re seeking better job opportunities or simply the peace of mind that comes with a clean slate, understanding expungement laws can be your first step towards lifting that weight off your shoulders.

Recent years have brought significant changes to the state’s approach to expungement, expanding eligibility, and simplifying legal processes. This isn’t just about legal jargon; it’s about hope that your past actions won’t define your future opportunities.

So, if you’re wondering what crimes can be expunged in North Carolina or just looking for a way to lighten your load, you’re in the right place. Let’s explore how this process works, who qualifies, and how you can navigate your way to a brighter, lighter future.

Together, we’ll see if it’s your time to unpack that backpack and find a brighter future full of new opportunities.

General Considerations for Expunctions

Diving deeper into the heart of expungement (also called expunction) in North Carolina, let’s talk about which crimes can be wiped clean from your record. 

First off, expungement isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. The crimes eligible for removal from your record range widely from minor misdemeanors to certain felony convictions.

But when you’re eligible, it’s like getting a chance to erase a chalkboard full of past mistakes, leaving you with a fresh, clean slate to write your future on.

Misdemeanor Convictions

Think of these as the less severe offenses on your record, like a traffic offense or a crime that didn’t involve serious harm or danger.

North Carolina law often treats these as the easiest to expunge, especially if they happened when you were young and if you’ve stayed out of trouble since.

Felony Convictions

Now, these are the heavy hitters. Not all felony offenses can come off of your record. However, many non-violent and low-level felonies can, especially if they occurred at a certain age or under specific circumstances.

However, serious violent crimes like sexual assault or crimes that involve the federal government are generally not eligible.

Dismissed and Not Guilty Charges

But here’s where it gets interesting: not just convictions, but even your arrest records and charges that were dismissed or found not guilty can be expunged. 

It’s like clearing your browser history for good; even the mere suggestions of past visits disappear.

Waiting Period

And let’s not forget about waiting periods. The law requires you to wait and prove you can stay out of trouble before you can apply to have your record cleared of convictions. Dismissals and not guilty cases are eligible for expungement immediately with no waiting period. 

This waiting period can vary, adding a time-based criterion to the eligibility requirements.

Expunge Criminal Convictions More Easily With Help

Navigating the expungement process might seem complex. However, this is where getting the right legal help comes in handy. 

A criminal defense lawyer isn’t just a guide; they’re like a GPS for finding the quickest route through the complex legal process.

They can tell you if your criminal offense is eligible for expungement and help you understand the specific requirements of North Carolina’s expungement laws.

Removing Your Criminal Records Brings A Fresh Start

Remember, getting your records expunged can feel like unlocking a door to new opportunities. 

Employers, educational institutions, and even some government agencies will no longer see these past convictions on background checks, allowing you to move forward without the shadow of your past mistakes looming over you.

In essence, it is crucial to understand what crimes can be expunged, the criteria for eligibility, and the importance of legal guidance. Knowing which parts of your past can disappear from your record and how to make that happen is essential. 

With patience, the right information, and a bit of legal help, that fresh start is within reach, letting you write a new chapter in your life’s story.

Types of Expunctions Available in North Carolina

With the right knowledge and legal assistance, the expungement process can lead to reclaiming your civil rights and stepping into new opportunities with confidence.

So, let’s go more in-depth (but without legal jargon) and see exactly what 6 groups of people are generally eligible for the expungement process.

1. First-Time, Non-Violent Felony Convictions

For those who found themselves on the wrong side of the law once but have since turned a new leaf, North Carolina offers a path to expunge certain non-violent felony convictions. Imagine you made a mistake years ago that resulted in a felony on your record. 

If this was your only offense and it wasn’t for a violent crime, you might be able to have it expunged. This is especially impactful for young adults who faced felony charges. 

The state acknowledges that people can change and shouldn’t be forever defined by a single mistake.

2. Misdemeanor Convictions

Most misdemeanors fall into the basket of expungeable offenses, particularly for those under 18 or 21 at the time of the conviction, depending on the crime. 

It’s like erasing those small blots on your record that might be holding you back from opportunities. 

Whether it was a petty theft or a minor traffic offense, you might see these misdemeanors vanish, giving you a clearer path forward.

3. Dismissals and Acquittals

If you were charged with a crime but the charges were later dismissed, or you were found not guilty, you could have these arrest records completely wiped clean. 

It’s as if the charges were never brought against you in the first place. This type of expunction acknowledges that if the criminal justice system didn’t find sufficient evidence to convict you, then these charges shouldn’t hang over your head.

4. Drug Convictions

Specific drug offenses, especially those related to possession, can sometimes be expunged from your record. This opportunity often applies to first-time offenders and is aimed at individuals who’ve since stayed out of trouble. 

It’s a recognition by the state that individuals can reform and that past drug offenses shouldn’t necessarily dictate one’s future.

5. Human Trafficking Victims

Victims of human trafficking can petition to have convictions related to their victimization expunged. 

This aspect of the law offers a lifeline to those who were forced into unlawful activities, acknowledging their victim status and offering a route to reclaim their lives and civil rights.

6. Juvenile Records

For those who committed offenses as juveniles, North Carolina allows the court to expunge certain juvenile records. 

It’s a second chance, recognizing that the actions of our youth should not unduly influence our adult lives, especially when we’ve demonstrated growth and change.

Getting Help Can Make All the Difference

The expungement process, while detailed and a bit daunting, opens doors to a future without past convictions or charges. Each type of expunction caters to different circumstances, reflecting the state’s approach to giving individuals a second chance.

Consult a criminal defense lawyer for tailored advice and guidance if you need more information, such as:

  • Exact eligibility criteria
  • Required waiting periods
  • Technical steps to pursue expungement

Going Deeper Into the Criminal Offenses Eligible for Expungement

This section will go even deeper into the law if you want to read more about the exact North Carolina General Statutes on Expungement for yourself. 

Click on the links related to your situation to learn more. If you need help understanding the legalese, talk with us at Scharff Law for your FREE consultation about your eligibility for expungement.

  • If you have a misdemeanor conviction, a specific law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145(a), covers expunging these.
  • For those involved in gang-related offenses, there’s another law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145.1, just for those situations.
  • Now, onto drug offenses. If you got your drug charges dismissed because you completed a special program (conditional discharge), you’d look at N.C.G.S. 15A-145.2(a) if it’s under certain sections of the law (G.S. 90-96(a) or (a1)).
  • If your drug charges were just dismissed or you were found not guilty, check out N.C.G.S. 15A-145.2(b)
  • And if you were convicted for drug or drug paraphernalia offenses, you’d refer to N.C.G.S. 15A-145.2(c).
  • Toxic vapor offenses have their own set of rules. If those charges were dismissed after you completed a program, see N.C.G.S. 15A-145.3(a). If they were just dismissed or you were acquitted, then it’s N.C.G.S. 15A-145.3(b) you’re looking at. And for actual convictions of toxic vapors offenses, you’d go to N.C.G.S. 15A-145.3(c).
  • For young folks under 18 who messed up but it wasn’t violent, there’s a law, N.C.G.S. 15A-145.4, that helps clear nonviolent felony convictions. And for nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors in general, there are laws too, both listed under N.C.G.S. 15A-145.5.
  • Prostitution offenses have their own path to expungement with N.C.G.S. 15A-145.6
  • And for any criminal charge or alcohol-related infraction that was dismissed but not through a special program (and this started effective December 1, 2014), you’d look at N.C.G.S. 15A-146(a) or 15A-146(a1).
  • If your charge was for identity theft but you were found not guilty or the charge was set aside by the court, there’s a law for that, N.C.G.S. 15A-147(a). And if your charges were dismissed because of mistaken identity or identity theft, there’s also a specific statute, N.C.G.S. 15A-147(a1).
  • For folks who had a conviction overturned on appeal or were granted a pardon of innocence, there’s N.C.G.S. 15A-148.
  • And if you were convicted but later received a pardon of innocence, the law you’d look at is N.C.G.S. 15A-149.

So, in simpler terms, North Carolina has a bunch of laws designed to help people clear their records under various circumstances, whether it’s a one-time mistake in your youth, a nonviolent felony, drug charges, or being wrongfully accused. Each type of offense has its own set of rules to follow for getting that fresh start.

Step-By-Step Procedure: Expunge Your Criminal Record in North Carolina

Clearing your criminal record in North Carolina involves understanding a detailed and structured process. But let’s break it down in a way that feels more like preparing for a journey rather than decoding a complex legal document.

1. Identify Eligibility

First things first, figure out if your crime falls into the category of what can be expunged.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. North Carolina offers this chance for a variety of offenses, from minor misdemeanors to certain felony convictions, but not all criminal offenses are eligible. Violent crimes and certain felonies, for instance, often don’t make the cut.

Even if you just read our sections above about who is eligible for expungement, you may feel confused about your situation. Talk with us at Scharff Law for a FREE consultation about your eligibility to start the expungement process.

2. File Affidavits

The first part of the process involves signing an affidavit to expunge most convictions. 

The affidavit states that you have good moral character and have not been convicted of any felony or misdemeanor other than a traffic violation during the applicable waiting period. It also states that you have no restitution orders or civil judgments for restitution that are still outstanding.  

You’ll also authorize the court to do a background check on you. This is so they may discover any outstanding warrants on pending criminal cases and search for any other confidential records of expunctions.

You might also need to attach documents that prove your eligibility—like proof that you’ve completed probation or paid all court fees. Not attaching the proof they need for your expungement is like forgetting your passport for a trip to New Zealand.

At Scharff Law, we provide you with this affidavit, answer any questions you have, and file it for you with the expungement petition

3. Finding Witnesses

Another part of the process involves finding two people who are not related to you (or to each other) by blood or marriage who will file affidavits. They must state that your character and reputation in your community are good.

Think of them as your travel buddies. They make the trip possible!

4. Filing a Petition for a Motion

Next step is to file a petition in the county where the conviction occurred. Think of this as setting the address for your journey.

You’ll make a statement that you are filing in the case for your past conviction with the Clerk of Superior Court. You’ll also serve the petition on the district attorney.

Next, your petition will make its way through the system:

  • A judge will review your request and send the application to the State Bureau of Investigation for your background check. 
  • The State Bureau of Investigation will then send the entire application to the Administrative Office of the Courts to verify if you have had prior convictions expunged. 
  • Lastly, the application will go back to the local judge for a final ruling on your expungement request. 

5. Court Fees

There’s a cost to embark on this expungement journey. Filing a petition comes with a fee, typically $175. Think of this as the ticket price for your expedition to a cleaner record. However, the state waives this fee if you file as indigent.

6. The Hearing

Depending on the type of expunction, you may need to attend a court hearing. This is where the court reviews your petition and decides whether to allow your record expunction.

Bringing along an experienced expungement attorney can help this leg of your journey go more smoothly!

Imagine this as the final leg of your journey, where you present your case and await the final decision.

7. Receiving the Order 

After reviewing your petition for expungement, the court may order restoration of your status to before the arrest or indictment. 

However, there are many reasons that the court may find you ineligible for an expungement. 

This is where having an experienced and knowledgeable expungement attorney is crucial in order to get ahead of these issues. Expungement cases are not simple, and they depend on precise matters of North Carolina law which are constantly evolving. 

If the court grants your expunction, they will issue an order to clear your record. The order goes out to various law enforcement agencies and other relevant parties, instructing them to purge your records.

It’s the moment your path clears and you reach your destination.

8. Confirmation of Expungement

After the court issues the expunction order, the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory, for DNA record expungements, sends a letter documenting the expungement to you and your attorney.

If you meet all of the requirements for expunction, you can have your record expunged and move forward with your life as if you had not committed the crime you were convicted of. 

You now have proof of your successful journey — a tangible confirmation that your record has been cleared.

Prosecutors will retain access to all records, but companies that sell your background information to businesses can be liable for reporting an expunged conviction.

We Can Help

At Scharff Law, we understand the expungement process can feel like a labyrinth. With laws that can often seem as intricate as a spider’s web, knowing where to start, what steps to follow, and how to ensure the best possible outcome can be overwhelming. That’s where we can help.

We bring a wealth of experience, compassion, and a deep understanding of North Carolina’s expungement laws.

We don’t just guide you through the process; we walk beside you every step of the way, from the initial assessment of your eligibility to the final submission of your petition. We’re here to clarify and simplify the journey toward clearing your record.

Whether it’s a misdemeanor, a non-violent felony, or a dismissed charge, we’re ready to assess your situation and tailor our approach to your individual case. We consider your unique circumstances and pursue the path that offers the best chance of success.

Beyond just legal assistance, we provide support and understanding. We know that behind every expungement case is a person looking to move forward from past mistakes, seeking opportunities for employment, education, and a better future. At Scharff Law, we’re your advocates and partners in getting your second chance.

So, if you’re feeling stuck, weighed down by a criminal record that no longer reflects who you are, reach out to us. Let’s clear the path together, opening doors to new possibilities and helping you step confidently into the next chapter of your life.

With Scharff Law, you’re not alone. Together, we can handle the complexities of expungement and move closer to a future defined not by your past but by your potential.