The criminal court system in North Carolina is based on the premise of rehabilitation. Ideally, once you’ve paid your debt to society, you should be welcomed back into the community as an equal contributor to society.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
Most people, in fact, never get full restoration of their rights and status after conviction — and sometimes when charges never led to more than an arrest!
A criminal record in this state can be like a scarlet letter. Its effects can reach your job opportunities, living arrangements, education opportunities, travel plans and several other aspects of your life long after you’ve done your time and have turned your life around.
Fortunately, there’s a way for you to move beyond your criminal records and get your life back on track. You can do this by having your criminal records expunged.
What Does Expunging Your North Carolina Criminal Record Mean?
In North Carolina, you can petition the state court system to have your criminal records obscured from the public. This way, if anyone looks you up to see if you have a criminal history, they won’t see any priors that you might have.
Note though that expungement can help clear your name on public paper, your criminal record doesn’t completely disappear. Instead, it is sealed, but still accessible to law enforcement agencies and other entities required to consider criminal records under federal law.
Because law enforcement agencies can still access your record even after they’ve been expungement in North Carolina, the term “expungement” is also known as “sealing” your records. This is different from other states where the criminal record is erased entirely, and no one can see it.
Once your North Carolina record has been expunged, when an employer, school or landlord makes a request for information regarding your criminal history after the records, they will receive the identical response as someone who never had a criminal record to begin with — it’ll be as if you did not commit the offense.
Which Crimes Are Eligible For Expunction in North Carolina?
Not all crimes can be expunged in North Carolina. Generally, criminal records involving serious crimes such as sex offenses, homicide, violence, and child endangerment can never be expunged. So which ones are most commonly eligible?
Q: Can I Seal My Arrest Records?
A: If your arrest didn’t lead to a conviction, i.e., the charges were dropped, or your trial found you not guilty, and you don’t have previous felony convictions.
Q: What If My Charges Were Derived from Mistaken Identity or Identity Theft?
A: If you were charged because the prosecution mistook you for someone else or because someone stole your identity, you might be eligible to have your record expunged if the conviction was set aside, the trial found you were not guilty, or the charges were dropped.
Q: Can My Child Have Their Juvenile Record Expunged?
A: Those offenders who were minors (below the age of 21) when they committed a nonviolent crime may be eligible for record expungement when it was their first offense.
The general requirement is that they must wait for one or two years before making a request to have the record expunged.
Q: Are Nonviolent Misdemeanors and Felonies Eligible for Expungement?
A: Convictions of many adults’ nonviolent misdemeanors, as well as nonviolent felonies, may be expunged after completion of all the court-mandated orders and conditions, as well.
There is a waiting period before you can ask for expungement — 10 years for nonviolent felonies, 5 years for nonviolent misdemeanors. You must also have no other felonies or misdemeanors in your record besides a traffic violation.
Q: My Past Life Included Prostitution Arrests and Convictions — Can I Move On?
A: You can have your prostitution-related records expunged if you don’t have any prior convictions for violent crimes. There are several other factors to be considered before the records can be expunged as outlined in N.C. General Statutes § 15A-145.6
Q: What Is a Pardon of Forgiveness?
A: In North Carolina, if you are convicted of a crime, sentenced, and imprisoned, but it’s later found that you were innocent all along, you may petition the governor for a pardon of innocence. If granted, the pardon erases the incident and qualifies your records for expungement.
How Do I Find Out If My NC Criminal Records Are Eligible For Expungement?
The eligibility requirements for expungement in North Carolina are extensive, and the process itself can be quite lengthy and complicated. Because of this, we recommend bringing in an experienced North Carolina expungement attorney to help you determine your eligibility.
When you’ve found you do qualify for expungement, your lawyer can also guide you through correctly petitioning the North Carolina Court System to expunge your records.