A criminal record is not generally useful to have. What many people don’t realize is that not only convictions go on a criminal record. Arrests do as well.
Some people may have a criminal record and not even be aware of it. And a criminal record can impede your ability to live and work – and even pursue your passions through your education.
That is why an expungement is a great tool for people in North Carolina to have. It allows some to put their past where it belongs, which is behind them, and move forward with their lives.
However, expungement as a remedy isn’t open to everyone.
Here’s what you need to know about record sealing and expungement in North Carolina, including how it works and who is eligible.
Expungement: What Is It?
Expungement is a process approved by the court that helps to rid a criminal charge and even certain convictions from a person’s criminal record. It vacates a criminal record in the eyes of the law as if it never happened at all.
Law enforcement agencies may be able to see your criminal record, but the public cannot. That means you do not have to answer questions about it in applications for housing or employment.
In North Carolina, there isn’t a separate process called record sealing, unlike some other states. The expungement process in North Carolina is essentially the same as record sealing in other states.
Who Is Eligible for Expungement?
Expungement is available under North Carolina law to anyone who qualifies. Usually, this is the case if they’ve had charges against them dismissed, they were acquitted, or they were convicted of a nonviolent crime.
The state has put forth a series of requirements to meet in order to petition the court for expungement. If you have committed crimes involving any of the following, you likely are not eligible for expungement of your record:
- Any offense that requires you to register as a sex offender
- Offenses that are considered hate crimes
- Offenses that involve assault, such as domestic violence or child abuse
- Offenses that involve operating a commercial motor vehicle
- Offenses that involve the sale, distribution, or possession of a controlled substance
Felony convictions that do qualify for expungement have a required waiting period of 10 years after the date of conviction. Once that waiting period has passed, the court can be petitioned.
For misdemeanors, it’s five years. In both cases, you must make sure all your sentencing requirements have been completed.
If you were accused of a crime but were found not guilty in court, or the charges against you were dismissed, then you can petition the court for an expungement immediately.
You also qualify to have your record expunged if you were pardoned. The criminal record related to the pardon can be expunged from your record.
Can You Expunged More Than Once?
In North Carolina, you cannot have multiple expungements. The law only allows for one expungement during one’s lifetime.
How To Have Your Record Expunged
If you have met all the requirements for expungement in North Carolina, then you should fill out an application for expungement in the county you were charged or arrested in.
The application is then sent to law enforcement agencies in the state to be investigated, and the information needs to be sent to the judge. Your case is then reviewed to determine whether your record can be expunged or not. It’s a process that can take quite some time.
If the judge approves your request, they’ll issue an order to the courts and police agencies for the expungement of all records related to the case.
Expungement Is Not a Guarantee
Unfortunately, expungement in North Carolina is not a guaranteed privilege, even if you meet all the requirements. Ultimately, it’s up to the judge presiding over your petition to grant it. The best you can do is make sure you’ve submitted everything needed, with the help of your attorney to make the process as streamlined as possible.
And, of course, you have to be honest, upfront, and give completely accurate information about your criminal history in order to be successful in the process. It’s also important to keep in mind that, even if an expungement is granted, it can take time for all the data to be removed from private databases.
Expungement is there to help remind people that mistakes happen, but you don’t have to carry them with you your entire life. If you believe you qualify, pursue expungement of your criminal record so you can move on with your life.