Can an expunged record be found?
That's a question we hear a lot – and the answer is that it depends on who's looking.
Can An Expunged Record Be Found?
An expunged record means it's been wiped clean. There are exceptions, though. In North Carolina, judges have access to expunged records. That means if you're later arrested and go to court, the judge will have access to those records and will be able to consider them during your trial. And under North Carolina's new expungement law, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel will have access to all your records, too.
However, the general public won't have access to your criminal records once you've gone through the expungement process and a judge has agreed to give you a fresh start.
That means landlords, employers and people conducting routine background checks aren't going to be able to find your records.
What Does the Expungement Process Include?
The expungement process in North Carolina can seem complicated, especially if you're not familiar with the legal terms involved or the waiting periods for each type of conviction. For most people, it makes sense to work with an expungement attorney who can walk you through the process and answer your questions every step of the way.
The expungement process involves all the agencies that have your records. Here's how it works:
- You and your attorney work together to determine your eligibility
- You and your attorney fill out the petition
- You provide supporting documentation as necessary
- Your attorney files the petition with the right agency
- State agencies review your petition
- A judge makes a decision
- Agencies that have your records destroy them (with exceptions)
Determining Eligibility for Expungement So Your Record Can't Be Found
Every crime has its own requirements for expungement. (Check out our list of crimes you can expunge in North Carolina.) The general rule is that if you're trying to expunge a conviction, it must be a misdemeanor, a Class H or a Class I felony. The crime cannot have assault as an essential element of the offense, which means it can't be a “violent” crime.
Typically, you're allowed to expunge your record if you:
- Were arrested but never charged
- Went to court and were found not guilty
- Had your identity stolen and were falsely accused of a crime
- Went to court and had your case dismissed
- Were found guilty of certain misdemeanors
- Were found guilty of certain nonviolent Class H or Class I felonies
You cannot expunge:
- Class A through Class G felonies
- Crimes that involve contaminating food or drinks in a way that makes someone mentally incapacitated or helpless
- Felonies that include assault as an essential element of the offense
- Felonies that require you to register as an offender (such as a sex offender)
- Offenses in which you used a commercial vehicle while committing the crime
- Offenses that involve methamphetamines or heroin
- Offenses that involve the intent to sell or deliver cocaine
- Some sex-related offenses
- Stalking offenses
If you and attorney have figured out that you're eligible for expunction (expunction is another term for expungement), you'll be able to move on to the next step in the process.
Filling Out the Petition
Your attorney will fill out your petition for expungement. It requires a lot of information, though, including your Social Security number, driver's license number, and your previous case numbers, offense descriptions and dispositions – so if you have your court documents from previous offenses, your attorney will probably ask you for them.
Providing Supporting Documentation
You'll need to include supporting documentation with your petition. In addition to proof of paid court costs, fines and fees, you'll need signed affidavits (from yourself and two other people) that explain why you deserve expungement.
Filing the Petition
Your lawyer will file the petition for you in the county that has your records.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation, or SBI, will search North Carolina criminal records and FBI records for your information. Anything they find, they'll attach to your petition. Then, they'll mail the packet to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts. The AOC will investigate and attach its findings to the petition before forwarding it to the clerk of court in the county where you filed your petition.
The Judge's Decision
When a judge receives your petition, he or she will make a decision on your case.
If the judge rules in your favor, the clerk of court will notify the agencies that have your criminal records. This is the part where your records get erased – it makes it so that the general public can't find your records, even with a background check, so you can get the fresh start you deserve.
Do You Want to Talk to a Lawyer About Expunging Your Records?
If you need to talk to a lawyer about expungement, we're here to help. Call us at 704-470-2440 right now for a free consultation. We'll be happy to answer your questions and help determine whether you're eligible to get the fresh start you deserve.