Expungement FAQ

An individual with a criminal charge or conviction on his or her record can have problems obtaining government aid, or employment opportunities, and other resources that could benefit his or her academic or career aspirations. Thankfully, North Carolina has expungement laws in place that allow people to officially put the past behind them. Here’s a compilation of frequently asked questions people ask when contemplating filing for an expungement.

What is an expungement?

An expungement is a court-ordered process that is intended to eradicate a criminal charge or conviction from an individual’s record. Each state imposes distinct laws regarding the expungement process and the qualifications one must meet to be granted one.

Who is eligible for an expungement?

According to North Carolina law (N.C.G.S. § 15A-145.5), residents who have committed either a misdemeanor or a level H or I felony may be able to file a petition for an expungement. However, they must meet a series of state requirements.

The easiest way to answer this question is to address persons with prior convictions who are not eligible. A resident who has committed any of the following offenses may not be eligible to receive an expungement:

  • Offenses that involve the operation of a commercial motor vehicle
  • Offenses that are constituted as hate crimes
  • Offenses that involve the possession, sale or distribution of controlled substances
  • Offenses that involve assault in any form (child abuse, aggravated assault, domestic violence, sexual assault etc.)
  • Offenses that obligate a person to have their name placed on the state sexual offender registry.

In addition to these guidelines, North Carolina residents are required to wait a minimum of 10 years from the date of a felony conviction (5 years for a misdemeanor) they want to be expunged, or the date of completion of all sentencing requirements to gain eligibility to file a petition.

Residents who receive a “not guilty” verdict in court, or who have had their charges dismissed are also eligible for an expungement, if they have not been convicted of a felony.

Can I get multiple expungements?

North Carolina laws only allow one expungement for a conviction in a person’s lifetime. The record of which charges have been expunged is retained for certain purposes within the judicial system but not allowed to be viewed by third parties.

How do I initiate the expungement process?

A resident must take a number of steps to successfully file for an expungement.

  1. First, the required expungement form must be completely and correctly filled out. The expungement form will likely include important information regarding the conviction, such as the date of arrest, the date of the conviction, the date of disposition etc. So it’s important to have this information on hand.
  2. Secondly, three affidavits must be turned in alongside the expungement form. One of them should be filled out by the petitioner, who must contain information that proves that he or she has not had more run-ins with the law since the date of the offense he or she wishes to expunge. The other two affidavits should be submitted to other parties who are not related to the petitioner by blood or marriage. These affidavits should contain each party’s account of the petitioner’s good character.

Petitioners should expect to pay a filing fee of approximately $175.

Can an expungement be denied?

It is possible for an expungement to be denied. Once an expungement is successfully filed, a judge will send it to the Administrative Office of the Courts and the State Bureau of Investigation for review. These agencies are given the responsibility to determine if the petition meets the state’s qualifications. Once a petition passes this phase, it will be sent back to a clerk and a hearing will be scheduled. The court will then decide whether or not an expungement will be granted.

How long does it take to get an expungement?

The length of the expungement is based on the county that one resides in. However, it has been known to be a relatively time-consuming process. Some people have reported that it takes an average of six months to a year for the entire expungement process to run its course.

Can I just get a governor’s pardon?

A pardon is an official statement issued by the Governor that attaches to a criminal record and states that the State of North Carolina has pardoned a crime. It does not actually remove anything from your record, however. For more information, see our page about Pardons.

How about expunging my record after a pardon?

A pardon of innocence may make you eligible for an expungement pursuant to NCGS § 15A-148.

Can I expunge a domestic violence protective order?

Domestic Violence Protective orders (except for a violation thereof described in NCGS § 50B-4.1)  are civil matters, not criminal. There are currently no North Carolina laws that allow for this type of civil matter to be expunged but NC House Bill 796 could produce a law that would provide for this in the next several years.

Why does domestic violence prevent me from getting a gun?

Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(9)) prevents a person from possessing a firearm if they have been convicted of a “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.” A “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence” is defined as a misdemeanor that “has, as an element, the use or attempted use of physical force, or the threatened use of a deadly weapon,” and that is committed by a person with one of several specified relationships to the victim according to 18 U.S.C. § 921(a)(33).

We will not be able to help you with getting gun if this statute pertains to you and you do not qualify for Expungement.

I was falsely accused and the charges were dismissed. Wont it just go away?

Under normal circumstances, criminal charges in North Carolina, no matter how they were disposed, will not go away until they are expunged.

It was 20 years ago. I can get them expunged, right?

The waiting period or the time elapsed is only one factor in determining your eligibility for expungement. Call your office to start a record review to see if you qualify.

I thought my offense was non-violent.

People use the term “non-violent” to characterize different offenses. However, those offenses may or may not be the same as offenses that are excluded from being expunged under North Carolina law if the person was convicted.  In order to see if a particular offense is classified as “non-violent” under the expungement laws, refer to NCGS § 15A-145.5 for offenders aged 18 or older. Refer to NCGS § 15A-145.4 for offenders under 18, but prosecuted as an adult.

Can I expunge an eviction?

Evictions are civil matters and there is currently no law in North Carolina to expunge them.

Can I get multiple expungements?

North Carolina laws only allow one expungement for a conviction in a person’s lifetime. The record of which charges have been expunged is retained for certain purposes within the judicial system but not allowed to be viewed by third parties.

If I don’t qualify for expungement, can I get the records sealed?

North Carolina law does not provide for “sealing,” as other states may. Expungement laws cover all of the relief that would be called sealing.

How can I get a gun after a civil commitment?

NCGS § 122C-54(e) does make certain provisions for the expunction of civil commitment records for a minor. Also, NCGS § 14-409.42 provides for a person to petition for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to be updated after a civil commitment.

Do I have to give notice of prior charges and convictions after they have been expunged?

According to North Carolina statutes, (N.C.G.S. § 17-22-150(a)) a person does not have to acknowledge previous convictions and criminal charges that have been expunged. You could technically say that you have not committed the crime that was expunged since your criminal record does not reflect these events anymore.

Should I contact an attorney to help me through this process?

Hiring a North Carolina Expungement Attorney to assist you with the filing of your petition could significantly accelerate the process. When a person undergoes this process themselves, they are likely to experience delays or insufficiencies that will set them back, which will ultimately prolong the process. With the help of a knowledgeable attorney, the chances of filing a petition correctly the first time is maximized.

Experienced North Carolina Expungement Attorney

If you are seeking an expungement and want to start the process, contact the attorneys at Caulder & Valentine today. We are here to help.