If you’ve ever been charged with a crime, you are more than aware of the potential criminal penalties for the alleged offense. However, one of the most devastating consequences of a run-in with the law is not even technically part of your sentence: having a criminal record.
Most applications for employment, housing, colleges, and loans are subject to a criminal background check. A thorough background check will reveal not only convictions, but also arrests and court proceedings. This means that any kind of criminal legal trouble can be a black mark on your record – even if you were ultimately found innocent of all charges.
Moreover, arrest records and court proceedings are maintained in public databases. This means that anyone with an internet connection and the desire to pry can access your criminal record. There are even stories of people having trouble getting dates because potential mates run a background check on them beforehand.
Fortunately, it may be possible in some cases to have your North Carolina criminal record sealed, meaning that it will not be accessible through public databases, and will not show up on most criminal background checks. However, the process of record sealing is complex, and is often difficult to navigate for those unfamiliar with the system.
Let’s take a look at what it means to have your criminal record sealed, how to determine eligibility and, most importantly, how to seal your record.
Record Sealing in North Carolina
In our state certain people qualify to have their criminal record sealed. This means that while the record is not destroyed, it is hidden from all but a privileged few entities.
If you were arrested for a crime and were not found guilty, your record is likely eligible for record sealing so long as you have not previously been convicted of a felony. However, to have your record sealed, you still have to jump through the courts system’s hoops.
If you were convicted of a nonviolent offense, it may still be possible to have your record sealed after you have completed all conditions and court orders pertinent to your sentence. However, you must wait 10 years after a nonviolent felony, and five years after a nonviolent misdemeanor before applying to have your record sealed.
The Benefit of an Advocate
The record sealing process in North Carolina is not straightforward. Firstly, there are often multiple eligibility criteria that prior offenders or defendants must meet in order to apply, and the laws regarding record sealing are continually evolving. Secondly, your application is just that – an application. In order to successfully have your record sealed, you must convince the court system that you have been fully rehabilitated.
An experienced North Carolina defense attorney can make the record sealing process much smoother. He or she will be familiar with both the system and the often-complex eligibility criteria. A skilled lawyer will also know what the court system is looking for on your application, allowing them to maximize the chance of your application’s acceptance.
Record sealing is an essential part of the rehabilitation process, and can help you overcome the embarrassing and often-unfair stigma of a criminal record. This is an important investment in your future. You owe it to yourself and your family to ensure that the job is done right the first time.