Can I Expunge a DWI From My Record in North Carolina?

Whatever someone says the phrase "background check," individuals who have a history with the criminal justice system may become nervous. For example, if you are applying for your dream job and the potential employer is engaging in a background check, you might be anxious that they will discover you have been convicted of a DWI. Even if the conviction occurred years or decades ago, it could still hurt your chances of obtaining a job, apartment, or some other important life event.

A DWI conviction on your record could hinder your professional and personal life. You may wonder whether you can have your DWI conviction expunged or removed from your criminal record in North Carolina. The short answer is that DWIs cannot be expunged if you were convicted of a DWI, but you may have options if you were charged but not convicted.

What is an Expungement or Expunction?

When a judge orders a criminal record to be sealed so that it is not publicly available, the criminal record will not appear on any background check. The criminal record will not be available for any other publicly available checks. However, prosecutors will still be able to access these records to determine how to charge someone for a second, third, or subsequent DWI. When a person has a previous misdemeanor conviction, they can pursue an expungement, also called expunction, meaning they can answer the question, "Do you have a prior criminal record?" with "no."

How to Get Rid of a Criminal Charge

Due to changes in the law, there is no limit to the number of expunctions you can request for misdemeanor and felony convictions. However, there is a waiting period you must fulfill before you can pursue an expunction. For misdemeanors, you must wait five years; for felonies, you must wait ten years before requesting an expunction. It is only possible to have a felony conviction expunged when:

  • You do not have any other current felony convictions on your record
  • You were acquitted at trial by a jury
  • The court and or district attorney dismissed your case 

Additionally, a misdemeanor is eligible for expunction if the case was dismissed or you were acquitted of the charge at trial or by a jury. You will not have to pay a fee to file this petition. Other cases may require a $175 filing fee for the petition. Expunctions take between nine and 12 months from the time you filed the petition to the judge ordering an expunction.

DWIs are Not Eligible for Expunction in North Carolina

A DWI conviction is generally not eligible for expunction in North Carolina. In 2015, the North Carolina legislature changed the laws related to expunction. As a result, a DWI conviction cannot be expunged from any person's record. You must hire a strong defense attorney if you are facing DWI charges to have a better chance of having a not-guilty verdict or having your case dismissed.

For a single incident of DWI in North Carolina, there is a seven-year look-back period for in-state and out-of-state convictions. Felony habitual DWI charges carry a 10-year look-back period. For a person arrested today for a DWI, a judge could look at their criminal record for ten years and include those previous charges to increase the penalties, including jail time and fines. If more than seven years have passed from the last DWI, the current DWI is treated as a first-time offense.

However, If you were charged with a DWI but were not convicted because of one of the following circumstances, you can request an expungement:

  • The charges were dropped
  • You were charged with a DWI but not tried
  • Your case was dismissed
  • You were acquitted (found not guilty) at a jury trial

If you are still determining whether you may be eligible to have your DWI expunged, the best way to learn more about your legal options is to reach out to an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can advise whether you are eligible for a DWI expungement.

Seeking Expungement? Reach Out to a Skilled North Carolina Attorney

If your DWI case was dismissed or acquitted, you have the right to file a petition to request an expungement. The expungement process is automatic, and you will benefit from working with an experienced Charlotte criminal defense attorney who can help you clear your record. Contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC, as soon as possible to schedule a free case evaluation and learn more about your legal rights.