Have you been denied a job?
Were you rejected from renting an apartment?
Were you a victim of identity theft? Or prostitution?
Are you concerned about your in-laws looking up your record?
Have you been denied a loan or are you facing high interest rates because of your record?
Did you have a lapse in judgment at one point in your life that has haunted you ever since?
Do you want a firearm to protect your family or go hunting but can't pass the background check?
Have you received an expungement but still have evidence of the expunged crime show up online?
If you've answered yes to any of these questions, you've come to the right place.
We are here to help you.
What is an expungement?
In North Carolina, an expungement (also called expunction) is a legal process by which a person may acquire a court order to remove an entry from their criminal record. Every time you are charged with a crime, that charge will remain on your criminal record for the remainder of your lifetime, even if you are ultimately found not guilty or the charge has been dismissed. While this was not much of an issue in years past, today we live in a world of technology and immediate access to information. As a result, your criminal record is instantly available for any potential employer, landlord, or other person to access at any given time. Since many people do not know how to read a criminal record properly, they may misinterpret a not-guilty or dismissed charge as a conviction. That's why we are here to help.
How does an expungement help me?
Once you are granted an expungement under North Carolina law, you can truthfully say under oath, without any penalties of perjury, that you were never even charged with that offense! This means you do not have to report it to employers, loan agencies, educational institutions, or anyone else who inquires about an expunged offense.* We want to help you acquire this peace of mind.
*There are very limited exceptions for certain specific license and certification agencies such as law enforcement or bar admission.
How soon can I get an expungement?
While it would be great to be able to get a charge removed within a week, in North Carolina, the process is unfortunately rather complicated and lengthy. In order to understand the time frame for acquiring an expungement, it is important that you understand how the expungement process works.
How do I get an expungement?
Getting an expungement involves 5 main stages:
1.) Determining Eligibility
The first step in the expungement process is determining eligibility. The North Carolina expungement laws provide for the expungement of certain charges or convictions if specific requirements are met. Because these laws are very technical, it is imperative that you get an attorney who has an in-depth understanding of all of the record clearing options available in North Carolina so that you receive the best outcome possible.
For example, there are some cases where you may be able to get a charge that is not expungeable amended so that it can be expunged. Other times, you may be eligible for more than one expungement. However, the order of those expungements is crucial because certain expungements prevent you from getting another expungement.
In order to determine your eligibility, we must pull a statewide copy of your criminal record and determine if you meet the statutory criteria qualifying you for an expungement. We will not only check your eligibility for expungement, but also look at other record clearing options such as motions for appropriate relief and pardons.
2.) Filing the Petition
Once we determine that you are eligible for an expungement, we will file a petition for expunction in the clerk's office of the county where your charges were filed and acquire a judge's signature. Depending on the type of expungement, we may be required to file certain affidavits and pay a filing fee.
3.) Review by State Agencies
Following an initial signature by a judge or district attorney (if required) the petition is then mailed to the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI). The SBI will conduct a search of the criminal records of North Carolina and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Any records discovered will be attached to the petition and mailed to the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC). After reviewing the petition for any prior expungements by petitioner, the AOC attaches another report of its findings and sends it back to the clerk of court of the county where the petition was originally filed. This part of the process can take between three to six months.
4.) Hearing and Decision of the Court
Upon return to the clerk's office, the petition will then be calendared for a hearing. The court and district attorney will check the reports from both the AOC and the SBI to insure there were no findings by either agency that would impair the petitioner's right to an expungement. If the court determines that all statutory requirements are met and the district attorney does not have any objections to the petition at that time, the judge may sign the order granting expunction without a formal hearing. However, if there is a question as to the applicant's eligibility or if the district attorney has an objection, then a formal hearing will generally be required for both the applicant and the district attorney to each make their case before the court. Following that hearing, the court will either grant or deny the petition.
5.) Elimination of Expunged Records
Upon the granting of the expungement petition, the clerk of court is statutorily required to send notice of the expunction to: the sheriff, chief of police, or other arresting agency; Division of Motor Vehicles (if applicable); any state or local agency identified by the petition as having record of the expunged offense; and the Department of Public Safety. Any of these state agencies that sell criminal records to private entities must instruct those entities to destroy any records of the expunged offense(s). The clerk will also notify the AOC and the FBI of the expungement, but both of those agencies are permitted to retain records of the expungement.
This entire expungement process can take anywhere from six to twelve months. And while that may seem like a long time, the wait is well worth the peace of mind you will have knowing that your charge(s) have been expunged. So don't wait to get the process started . . . Call us today!
What if I got an expungement but records or mug shots of the prior arrest and/or expunged offense are still showing up online, in record checks, etc.?
If a private entity that sells or distributes criminal records fails to destroy or disseminates any records of an expunged offense after being notified to destroy such records, that entity can be held liable for damages arising from that violation. This can also include reasonable attorney's fees and court costs. Contact us to see about getting those listings removed!
Can I get more than one expungement in North Carolina?
There is a common misunderstanding in North Carolina that a person can only receive one expungement in their lifetime. While this may be true in some cases, it is NOT necessarily true for everyone. For example, under North Carolina General Statute 15A-146, a person may only receive one expungement of dismissed charges in their lifetime. Furthermore, a prior expungement under any other statute acts as a bar to an expungement under 15A-146.
Other expungement statutes, however, do not have such limitations, so a person may qualify for two or even three expungements if they meet the statutory qualifications. But even in that instance, the order in which those expungement petitions are filed can be very, very important because not filing them in the proper order may result in that person no longer being eligible for one or more expungements. As a result, it is in your best interest to get an attorney who has a working knowledge of ALL the expungement laws and can insure that you achieve the most positive outcome possible.