What You Need to Know About Expungements in North Carolina
On behalf of Randall & Stump, PLLC in Expungement on Thursday, May 6, 2021
In North Carolina, you might hear about a process called “expungement” or “expunction.” Under either name, it means going through a legal process to have a criminal charge or conviction destroyed. If you’re able to erase a criminal record, you don’t have to admit to it. It’s like it never happened. However, there are exceptions when it can still count against you, such as for immigration purposes.
North Carolina Expungement Laws
Several different North Carolina statutes determine who can expunge a criminal charge or conviction. When one law doesn’t apply to you, another might.
- NCGS 15A-145: Misdemeanor convictions
- NCGS 15A-145.1: Gang offenses
- NCGS 15A-145.2: Drug offenses
- NCGS 15A-145.3: Toxic vapors offenses
- NCGS 15A-145.4: Nonviolent felony under age 18
- NCGS 15A-145.5: Nonviolent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor
- NCGS 15A-145.6: Prostitution offenses
- NCGS 15A-146: Criminal charge dismissed not by deferred prosecution or conditional discharge; Dismissed by deferred prosecution or conditional discharge; finding of not guilty or not responsible
- NCGS 15A-147: Identity theft – not guilty dismissal or charge set aside by court; dismissal of charges resulting from identity theft or mistaken identification
- NCGS 15A-148: DNA records upon appellate reversal of conviction or pardon of innocence
- NCGS 15A-149: Conviction after a pardon
If you have multiple charges or convictions, your situation is more complicated. Some of the charges or convictions may be eligible for expunction, while others aren’t. Even if you can erase one or more elements of your record, others might remain that still cause you trouble.
It gets even more complicated. Sometimes you can expunge a charge or conviction under more than one statute. You have to think carefully about which statute to use. Some laws ban you from seeking another expunction in the future, while others don’t.
It’s always best to talk with an expungement attorney about your situation. We’ll look at each part of your record and determine if it’s eligible. We’ll help clean up as much of your record as possible.
It Doesn’t Happen Overnight
Expungement takes time; you often aren’t eligible until you’ve waited a certain period and completed every aspect of your criminal sentence. In addition, each statute gives different requirements.
Once you’ve waited long enough, the process can still take six months or more. After filing the forms, the court takes several steps and schedules a hearing. As a result, your hearing date may be several months away as the court works through all the applications.
If your hearing is successful and the court grants your expungement, it’ll take some time to go into effect.
You’ll immediately receive a copy of the order granting the expunction. It’s important to keep this safe. Once the clerk and other government agencies receive the notice of expunction, they’ll destroy all the files related to that expunged charge or conviction, including the expunction order.
If You Do it Wrong, You Have to Start Over
To begin with, you need to fill out the proper forms correctly. You must have all the information about your past charges, dispositions, docket numbers, and court information. It may be more specific than you anticipate, which is why it helps to get a copy of your criminal record first. Your form also has to include the right North Carolina General Statute, your signature (or your attorneys), and a judge’s signature.
In some cases, you’ll need to include extra forms with your petition. But, again, it depends on which statute you’re filing under.
You’ll then begin the process by filing the forms with the county clerk where you were charged or convicted. You must have the proper jurisdiction. Otherwise, the process won’t work. Also, if any information is missing, the court will reject your petition. Some expunction statutes don’t require a filing fee, but typically, you’ll pay $175 to file a petition for expunction.
Next, you usually must serve the district attorney’s office. You don’t have to do this in some cases, like if you’re asking the court to expunge a dismissal. Once the AG knows about your application, they can choose to object.
None of this information is to scare you or put you off from seeking an expungement. It’s merely to help you understand the importance of completing the process correctly the first time. Something you might think is a small mistake, like a missing date, can force you to start all over again. We don’t want you to waste your time or have to pay another filing fee.
Let Us Help You Expunge a Criminal Record
Expungement is a precise process in North Carolina courts. First, you must do everything right. If not, the court will deny your petition, and you’ll have to start from the beginning. Nothing is more frustrating than the court rejecting an expunction because of an innocent mistake.
To avoid errors in your petition and during the legal process, we recommend working with an expungement lawyer.