Expungement Attorney in Raleigh & Durham, NC
An estimated 25% of North Carolinians have a criminal record. While for some a past criminal record has no significant effect on their present lives, for others it can stand in the way of getting a job, securing housing, or serve as an ever-present reminder of a time they would rather forget. Fortunately, many criminal records are eligible to be wiped clean through a process called “expungement” or “expunction.” Our expungement lawyers can guide you through the process, including: compiling and helping to draft any necessary documents, preparing and filing an expungement petition on your behalf, and making arguments to the court when required.
An expungement (or expunction, they mean the same thing) is the court ordered destruction of a criminal record. After a record is expunged, it is treated (with a few exceptions like federal immigration or certain state employment) as if it never existed in the first place. Put another way, if you are asked whether you have a criminal record after your charges have been expunged you may truthfully and simply answer, “no.”
While the idea is simple enough, the process itself can be complicated. The first step is to obtain a complete and accurate criminal record. Next, that record must be reviewed to determine eligibility for expunction. There are a few main groups of records that may be eligible for expungement as long as certain criteria are met:
- All charges that have been dismissed, or found not guilty;
- First-time nonviolent felony convictions;
- One (or multiple) nonviolent misdemeanor convictions;
- Certain first-time convictions committed while a minor (or in some cases, under 22);
- Convictions resulting from human trafficking.
Additional considerations in determining eligibility include whether there have been disqualifying previous or subsequent convictions, whether there is a wait period (and whether that period has been fulfilled), and whether there have been disqualifying previous expunctions. Furthermore, some expunctions are left ultimately in the discretion of a judge.
After determining eligibility, a petitioner must fill out the relevant petition form, and in some cases, supply supporting documentation such as affidavits of good character. Some counties require additional procedural hurdles as well.
While the process may be complicated, it can still be extremely worthwhile. If you have a criminal record that you would like to get expunged, please consider speaking with an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be able to procure free legal services in your area through an organization like Legal Aid of North Carolina, or through a law school clinic.
North Carolina Expungement Statutes
In total, there are sixteen different expungement statutes under North Carolina law. We’ll outline a few of the more commonly scenarios here.
NCGS § 15A-146: Dismissed Cases and Not Guilty Verdicts
If you were charged with any crime, whether misdemeanor or felony, and the case was ultimately dismissed or you were found Not Guilty by a judge or jury, you are eligible to have that charge expunged under NCGS § 15A-146. From the General Statutes:
(a) Dismissal of Single Charge. – If any person is charged with a crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony, or was charged with an infraction under G.S. 18B-302(i) prior to December 1, 1999, and the charge is dismissed, that person or the district attorney may petition the court of the county where the charge was brought for an order to expunge from all official records any entries relating to that person’s apprehension or trial. Upon a finding that the sole charge was dismissed, the court shall order the expunction.
(a1) Multiple Dismissals. – If a person is charged with multiple offenses and any charges are dismissed, then that person or the district attorney may petition to have each of the dismissed charges expunged. If the court finds that all of the charges were dismissed, the court shall order the expunction. If the court finds that any charge resulted in a conviction on the day of the dismissal or had not yet reached final disposition, the court may order the expunction of any charge that was dismissed.
(a2) Finding of Not Guilty. – If any person is charged with one or more crimes, either a misdemeanor or a felony, or an infraction under G.S. 18B-302(i) prior to December 1, 1999, and a finding of not guilty or not responsible is entered for any or all of the charges, that person or the district attorney may petition the court of the county where the charge was brought for an order to expunge from all official records any entries relating to apprehension or trial of that crime. Upon determining that a finding of not guilty or not responsible was entered and all related criminal charges have reached final disposition, the court shall order the expunction of any charges disposed by a finding of not guilty or not responsible.
(a3) Effect of Expunction. – Except as provided in G.S. 15A-151.5(b)(5), no person as to whom an order has been entered by a court or by operation of law under this section shall be held thereafter under any provision of any law to be guilty of perjury, or to be guilty of otherwise giving a false statement or response to any inquiry made for any purpose, by reason of the person’s failure to recite or acknowledge any expunged entries concerning apprehension or trial.
(a4) (Effective December 1, 2021) Dismissal, Not Guilty, or Not Responsible on or After December 1, 2021. If any person is charged with a crime, either a misdemeanor or a felony, or is charged with an infraction, the charges in the case are expunged by operation of law if all of the following apply:
(1) All charges in the case are disposed on or after December 1, 2021.
(2) All charges in the case are dismissed without leave, dismissed by the court, or result in a finding of not guilty or not responsible.
Notwithstanding the provisions of this subsection, no case with a felony charge that was dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement will be expunged pursuant to this subsection. Prior to December 1, 2021, the Administrative Office of the Courts shall develop and have in place procedures to automate the expunction of records pursuant to this subsection.
NCGS § 15A-145.5: Convictions for Non-Violent Offenses
The question of whether a prior conviction is eligible for expungement is more complicated, and is never guaranteed even if eligibility is established. Under NCGS § 15A-145.5, certain first-time non-violent felony convictions are eligible for expungement, and one or more non-violent misdemeanor convictions may be eligible if other conditions are met (including no prior or subsequent felony convictions). From the statute:
(a) For purposes of this section, the term “nonviolent misdemeanor” or “nonviolent felony” means any misdemeanor or felony except the following:
(1) A Class A through G felony or a Class A1 misdemeanor.
(2) An offense that includes assault as an essential element of the offense.
(3) An offense requiring registration pursuant to Article 27A of Chapter 14 of the General Statutes, whether or not the person is currently required to register.
(4) Any of the following sex-related or stalking offenses: G.S. 14-27.25(b), 14-27.30(b), 14-190.7, 14-190.8, 14-190.9, 14-202, 14-208.11A, 14-208.18, 14-277.3, 14-277.3A, 14-321.1.
(5) Any felony offense in Chapter 90 of the General Statutes where the offense involves methamphetamines, heroin, or possession with intent to sell or deliver or sell and deliver cocaine.
(6) An offense under G.S. 14-12.12(b), 14-12.13, or 14-12.14, or any offense for which punishment was determined pursuant to G.S. 14-3(c).
(7) An offense under G.S. 14-401.16.
(7a) An offense under G.S. 14-54(a), 14-54(a1), or 14-56.
(8) Any felony offense in which a commercial motor vehicle was used in the commission of the offense.
(8a) An offense involving impaired driving as defined in G.S. 20-4.01(24a).
(9) Any offense that is an attempt to commit an offense described in subdivisions (1) through (8a) of this subsection.
(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, if the person is convicted of more than one nonviolent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor in the same session of court, then the multiple nonviolent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor convictions shall be treated as one nonviolent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor conviction under this section, and the expunction order issued under this section shall provide that the multiple nonviolent felony convictions or nonviolent misdemeanor convictions shall be expunged from the person’s record in accordance with this section.
(c) A person may file a petition, in the court of the county where the person was convicted, for expunction of one or more nonviolent misdemeanor convictions or one nonviolent felony conviction from the person’s criminal record. The petition shall not be filed earlier than one of the following:
(1) For expunction of one nonviolent misdemeanor, five years after the date of the conviction or when any active sentence, period of probation, or post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later.
(2) For expunction of more than one nonviolent misdemeanor, seven years after the date of the person’s last conviction, other than a traffic offense not listed in the petition for expunction, or seven years after any active sentence, period of probation, or post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later.
(3) For expunction of one nonviolent felony, 10 years after the date of the conviction or 10 years after any active sentence, period of probation, or post-release supervision has been served, whichever occurs later.
A person previously granted an expunction under this section is not eligible for relief under this section for any offense committed after the date of the previous order for expunction.
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Call a Raleigh & Durham expungement lawyer if you have a prior criminal record (conviction or otherwise) that you are interested in having expunged from your record. Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation and case evaluation at (919) 899-9404.