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North Carolina’s Second Chance Act: How Criminal Expungements Have Changed

On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Expungement on Tuesday, January 26, 2021

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By filing for and being granted an expungement, you can erase an arrest, criminal charge, and conviction from public record. Every state has different rules for what the courts will and won’t automatically seal from public eyes. In North Carolina, whatever the court expunges becomes private. As a result, under North Carolina don’t have to disclose it when you apply for a job, apartment, or a university. It’s an important legal tool to fight the stigma of a criminal record.

In June of 2020, North Carolina’s General Assembly passed SB 562, or the Second Chance Act, which went into effect on December 1, 2020. The Second Chance Act expanded eligibility for who can apply for an expungement what crimes can be expunged, and the number of convictions that may be expunged in North Carolina.

If you have questions about expunging something from your record, call Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys. As experienced North Carolina expungement lawyers, we’re ready to review your eligibility. If you have the right to file for this relief, we’ll guide you through the process.

Give us a call at (980) 237-4579 or use our online form to request a free consultation.

Terms You Need To Know

When we talk about expungements, it’s essential to know the differences between these terms:

Arrest: Police can arrest you when they suspect you committed a crime. At the time of arrest, unless you are released without being charged, you have been charged with a crime but not convicted.

Charge(s): You may be formally charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense. Criminal charges can be dismissed or lead to an acquittal or conviction. Charges stay on your record even if you are acquitted or the charge is later dismissed in court.

Misdemeanor: Misdemeanors are less serious crimes than felonies. You can face up to 150 days in jail and other penalties if convicted of a misdemeanor in North Carolina.

Felony: Felonies are the most serious crimes in North Carolina and are given felony levels based on their severity. There are 10 levels of felonies in North Carolina, and the penalties vary significantly. For the most severe felonies, you face life in prison or the death penalty.

Dismissal: When charges are dismissed, the case is over. A case is dismissed, when there either isn’t probable cause you committed a crime or there’s enough evidence to show you’re innocent. Unfortunately, the criminal charges stay on your record even if the charges are dismissed.

Acquittal: An acquittal means a jury, or a judge during a bench trial, determined you were not guilty of committing the crime. Despite your innocence and being found not guilty, the case remains on your record.

Conviction: A conviction means a judge or jury determined you were guilty of committing a crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

All of these terms matter when you’re figuring out whether you’re eligible for expungement. If you have any questions, call a North Carolina expungement lawyer right away.

Expungement in North Carolina

There are many rules and requirements which must be met in order for someone to file an expungement in North Carolina, which is why it’s helpful to consult a lawyer.

These rules include the following:

  • You may receive unlimited expungements for arrests and charges that end in dismissal or acquittal.
  • There’s no waiting period to ask a court to seal arrests, dismissals, and acquittals.
  • You may have one non-violent felony conviction expunged.
  • You must wait 10 years after a non-violent felony conviction to apply for expungement.
  • You may have one non-violent misdemeanor conviction expunged. There are exceptions when you may have more than one expunged, which are defined under North Carolina’s First Step Act discussed above.
  • You must wait five years after a non-violent misdemeanor conviction before applying for expungement.
  • Your waiting period does not start until you complete your sentence, which includes successfully completing probation.
  • To expunge a conviction, you must provide a number of documents, such as having two witness affidavits declaring you have a good moral character.
  • You can’t expunge a violent misdemeanor, violent felony, and certain drug crime convictions.
  • You might not be able to have a conviction sealed if you’ve been convicted of a separate felony offense, whether before or after the conviction you are seeking to expunge.
  • There is no filing fee if you’re expunging a dismissal or acquittal. In other cases, there’s a filing fee of $175.
  • The expungement process can take up to 10 months.

Expanded Eligibility for Expungement

The Second Chance Act lets you expunge multiple misdemeanor convictions if you wait seven years. This is a significant change from North Carolina’s previous expungement rules. The seven-year period starts once you complete the punishment for your most recent conviction. Of course, waiting means good behavior. You can’t be convicted of another crime in that time.

Expunging a Juvenile Record

Were you arrested or charged with a misdemeanor or Class H or I felony before Dec. 1, 2019, when you were 16-years-old or 17-years-old? You can ask for the matter to be expunged. Please talk with us about how and where to file a petition. Other eligibility requirements are that you have no restitution left to pay, and you completed your sentence, including probation.

Automatic Expungement in the Future

The Act also takes a big step for future defendants. Starting Dec. 1, 2021, the court will automatically seal certain cases:

  • Certain misdemeanors and felonies that are dismissed
  • Certain misdemeanors and felony charges that end in a not guilty verdict

Since expungement will be automatic in these cases, you won’t file any paperwork.

Contact Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help

If you or a loved one might be eligible for expungement under North Carolina’s new rules, give us a call. Randall & Stump, Criminal Defense Attorneys will review your criminal record. We’ll confirm whether you’re eligible or not. If you are, then we’ll guide you through the process of filing a petition for expungement. We want to help you clean up your record and move forward in life.

Use our online form or call (980) 237-4579 to set up your free, no-risk consultation.