Is it Hard to Get an Expungement in North Carolina?

Everyone deserves a second chance. Fortunately, the legal system in the United States tends to agree with this sentiment and courts will offer certain opportunities to those who may have a criminal record. Taking advantage of these opportunities may make your life much easier. You may find it easier to get a well-paying job or to pursue a future career in politics. Addressing issues with your criminal record may also make it easier to do things like obtaining a firearms license.

If you have been researching methods for dealing with your criminal record in North Carolina, you may have stumbled upon something called an “expungement.” What exactly is an expungement, and is it the right choice for you? While this article may serve to answer many of your questions and concerns, it is always a smart move to consult with an attorney. After teaming up with an attorney, you will find it much easier to deal with your criminal record in an efficient, expedited manner.

What Is an Expungement?

After being granted an expungement, your criminal records will no longer be visible to the public. While certain government agencies will still be able to access your criminal record, they will remain “sealed” to everyone else. While the authorities will still be aware of your criminal history, you can approach life knowing that no one will discover charges from your past. If an expungement is granted, you are legally allowed to claim (even in a court of law) that you have never been charged with a crime before in your life.

The Process of Getting an Expungement

The first thing you need to know about expungements is that they are not exactly easy to obtain. The courts do not just hand out expungements to everyone, and they will look into your situation with a fine-toothed comb before they approve it. That being said, an attorney can help you go through this process so that you have a strong chance of being approved.

  • Figure out Whether You are Eligible for an Expungement: Only certain crimes are eligible for expungement. Speak with your attorney to determine your eligibility.
  • File your Petition: Your attorney will help you file a petition in the county where the charges were initially brought.
  • Wait for the SBI to Investigate: The State Bureau of Investigation will then examine your case and conduct an investigation which can take months to complete
  • Await Judgement: A judge will review your petition and determine the next course of action. They will either approve it or ask you to attend a trial where you will be questioned by a district attorney.

Because this process can be lengthy and complex, it is crucial to have a knowledgeable attorney by your side. Your attorney can help file your petition and expedite the investigation process. They can also represent you if you are called to a hearing.

Other Options

It is worth pointing out that an expungement is not the only option if you want to clean up your criminal record. After you consult with an attorney, they may recommend another course of action that makes more sense for your situation.

For example, you may be eligible for a pardon. Although pardons are much more difficult to obtain compared to expungements, they come with their unique benefits. For example, while expungements merely hide your past crimes from public view, pardons can show that you have been forgiven in some way. Also, certain pardons may restore some of your rights, such as the right to buy and obtain a firearm.

There are three types of pardons:

  • Pardon of Forgiveness: This type of pardon is quite vague, but it states that you have been forgiven for your past criminal convictions. This may be granted as a result of community service or other activities.
  • Pardon of Innocence: This type of pardon states unequivocally that you are innocent of your crimes. A pardon of innocence often authorizes an expunction, making it easier to obtain.
  • Unconditional Firearm: Mainly granted to people to restore their right to own a firearm.

In addition to pardons, there are some other options available to you. For example, a first-time offender program means that a court may defer your sentence and ask you to undergo certain steps, such as drug treatment or community service. If you complete the requirements of your program, your charges may be dismissed with no impact on your criminal record.


If you have a criminal record that is preventing you from moving on with your life, we may be able to help. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, can review your case and see whether a pardon, expungement, or another type of legal measure, may be available to you. Contact us today to schedule your initial consultation.

For your convenience and safety, we now offer phone and video conferencing at 704-370-2828. If you prefer an in-person consultation, we have three easy to reach locations in Uptown Charlotte, Monroe, and Mooresville.