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 15 years from the date of the conviction they want to be expunged, or the date of completion of all sentencing requirements to gain eligibility to file a petition.
**Senate Bill 445, which becomes effective on December 1, 2017, has modified the minimum wait of 15 years to five years for residents who have acquired convictions or charges for non-violent crimes.
Residents who receive a “not guilty” verdict in court, or who have had their charges dismissed are also eligible for an expungement.
When I was younger, I got a conviction expunged, can I get another one?
No. The state only grants one expungement per individual. Therefore, it's a good idea for residents to save their expungement for the most serious crime that meets qualification standards.
**After December 1, 2017, the state will permit more than one expungement for people who were deemed “not guilty” for a crime and people with dismissed criminal charges.
Can a traffic offense be expunged?
North Carolina allows for only one type of traffic offense to expunged; this is the conviction for failing to stop in a vehicle upon the request of a law enforcement official. Only first offenses for this crime could potentially be expunged. Any other traffic offenses, such as convictions for driving under the influence, failing to stop at a stop sign, or running a red light can not be expunged.
How do I initiate the expungement process?
A resident must take a number of steps to successfully file for an expungement.
- 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.
- 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.
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.