There are 5 main stages involved in getting an expungement in North Carolina.
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.
How long does it take to get an expungement in North Carolina?
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!