If you're like many people in North Carolina who have a criminal record, you want to know what the expungement process is like. Is it simple? Is it expensive? How long will it take?
These are all questions that your NC expungement attorney can answer for you – but in the meantime, here's a quick run-down on how the expungement process works.
The North Carolina Expungement Process
Before you can obtain an expunction, you need to qualify for it. Not everyone is eligible. In fact, only some cases are eligible for expunction. (Even if you're not eligible for expunction, though, you may still be eligible for other types of relief. It's a good idea to talk to an attorney if you're not sure whether you can clear your criminal record.)
North Carolina law allows expungement for some misdemeanors and felonies you committed as an adult. You can't expunge convictions of Class A through Class G felonies, or those that involve assault as an essential element of the crime. You can't expunge anything that required you to register as a sex offender, either. Some other felonies also make you ineligible for expunction, so talk to your lawyer about your record to find out whether you qualify.
The state also allows the following types of crimes to be expunged:
- Any dismissed charges. If your charges were dropped, or if your case was dismissed, you have the right to ask for a pardon.
- Misdemeanor possession of alcohol. A lot of kids get in trouble for possession of alcohol – and the state recognizes that this type of conviction is not something that should follow you around for the rest of your life. If you were convicted of misdemeanor possession of alcohol before you turned 21, you could be eligible to have that record expunged.
- Misdemeanors you committed while under the age of 18. If you were convicted of a misdemeanor as a first-time offender while you were under 18, you are allowed to file for expungement.
- Nonviolent felonies you committed while under the age of 18. If you were convicted of a nonviolent felony before you were 18, you can file for expungement.
- Prostitution. If you were convicted of a prostitution offense, you could be eligible for expunction. Typically, these expungements are reserved for people who have been victims of human trafficking or sexual servitude, as well as people who have no prior prostitution convictions and those who received a conditional discharge.
- Some drug charges. If you were under the age of 22 when you were convicted of misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance or felony possession of a controlled substance under S. 90-95(a)(3), you have the right to ask the court to expunge your record.
- Some gang offenses. If you were under 18 at the time you committed a gang-related offense, you might be able to have it expunged.
In cases of identity theft, such as when you're charged with a crime because someone stole your identity, or in cases of mistaken identity, you have the right to apply for expungement as well.
The expungement process, if you're eligible, involves:
- Payment of fees
- Record checks
- Service on the district attorney
- Orders from the court
Typically, your attorney has to file your petition for expungement in the county where you were convicted.
Payment of Fees
The courts require payment of fees except in rare cases, such as when the court allows a person to proceed as an indigent (poor or needy) person.
The law requires you to consent to record checks, in most cases. One is performed by the North Carolina Department of Public Safety; the other is performed by the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC.
Service on the District Attorney
Your lawyer must serve your petition for expunction on the district attorney. Usually, the district attorney has a time limit in which he or she must object; if the district attorney doesn't object, your case moves on to the next step.
Orders From the Court
If the court agrees to grant your petition, the clerk will file it with the AOC and the necessary government agencies. Then, the AOC must provide a notice to delete records to all the private entities that it contracts with.
The clerk of court will also provide you with a certified copy of the order.
Do You Need to Talk to a Lawyer About the Expungement Process?
If you think you're eligible, or if you're not sure whether you are, call us right away at 704-470-2440 for a free case review. We'll be happy to talk about your case and, if we can, get the expungement process rolling so you can get the fresh start you deserve.