Update to Expungement Laws in North Carolina: Eligibility and Waiting Periods

For many people facing the difficult situation of criminal charges, their primary goal is to fight to find the best resolution for the charges in front of them. Whether that be lower fines, avoiding jail time, or an outright dismissal; for most, the goal is shortsighted. However, a criminal conviction, or even just a criminal charge, can have far reaching effects beyond the initial consequences of fines, court costs, and potential jail time. When it comes to finding the best resolution for criminal charges, you need a plan that considers how to lessen the effect of a previous criminal charge moving forward.

Today, when a criminal background check is just a few keystrokes on a computer away, it is as important as ever to take advantage of expungement laws that can cleanse your record of previous charges, and eliminate barriers to benefits such as:

Employment: One of the most significant consequences of a criminal conviction showing up on a background check is how it could affect your ability to obtain employment. Even if a conviction is dismissed, or if you are convicted of a minor offense, it could prevent an employer from hiring you.

Student Aid Eligibility: It is often the case that individuals make mistakes early in life, getting convicted or charged with minor offenses that can have significant effects on their education, specifically their ability to obtain student loans to attend college. An expunction is an important tool that can help young students regain their eligibility for student loan programs, and take control of their education.

Owning a Firearm: Felony convictions can have significant consequences on an individual’s ability to own a gun. However, there are some felony convictions eligible to be expunged under North Carolina’s new law, which could restore one’s right to own a gun.

Housing: Being denied housing because of a criminal conviction could not only affect the individual with the conviction on their record, but also their family. Getting an expunction can enable one to once again obtain safe, affordable housing for themselves and the ones they love.

The benefits discussed above are several of the many benefits affected by criminal convictions. Expunction is a tool an attorney at Arnold & Smith can use to help you regain the privileges you enjoyed before a criminal conviction. One’s right to an expunction in North Carolina has recently expanded under a new law passed in 2017, so even if you were previously ineligible for an expunction under the old law, you may now qualify, and be able to cleanse any criminal record. If you have a previous criminal charge or conviction, contact Arnold & Smith to speak to a criminal attorney about your eligibility for a expunction.

In 2012, the North Carolina legislature expanded expunction laws in North Carolina, allowing those with certain criminal convictions to remove the stain of that conviction from their record. Even still, the eligibility requirements for an expunction under the 2012 law were strict, and many were still ineligible to receive the benefits of cleaning up their record. Under the old law, individuals would have to endure long waiting periods, some up to fifteen years, before criminal charges could be removed from their record, a waiting period that is significantly longer than almost every other state.

Understanding the limitations of the 2012 expunction law, the North Carolina legislature passed a bill in 2017, signed by Governor Cooper, that made it easier for individuals to obtain an expunction of previous criminal charges. Under the previous law, an individual would have to wait fifteen years to be eligible for an expunction of a non-violent offense from their record. Now, that waiting period has been reduced to ten years for a non-violent first offense felony, and five years on a non-violent misdemeanor. An eligible individual must go through the process of petitioning the court in the county the offense was committed in, following all the statutory requirements for expungement. The court will then rule on whether or not to grant the expunction, based mainly on whether or not the offense and the individual meet the statutory requirements.

While the new North Carolina expungement law has expanded eligibility for expungements, the petitioning process must still be precisely followed in order to ensure the court’s approval. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith are experienced in moving expungements through the court system as quickly as allowed by the process. While the new law has made it possible to speed up the process of petitioning the court, it still takes a significant amount of time and expertise in order to obtain the best result, the expungement of one’s criminal convictions, ensuring a clean slate moving forward.

The goal of the new expungement law in North Carolina is to allow those who have made mistakes in the past, to go on and live normal, productive lives. This law allows those with convictions in North Carolina who have moved past their previous mistakes, to regain some of the rights and privileges taken by a criminal conviction. This tool is one that many are qualified for, but few use. If you think you could qualify, contact us and we can answer any questions about the expungement process.

If you have a criminal record and you would like to explore what options you may have to expunge charges or convictions, it is extremely important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area. Arnold & Smith, PLLC is a criminal defense and civil litigation firm in Charlotte, Mooresville and Monroe North Carolina. Our dedicated defense attorneys fight for the rights of our clients on a variety of criminal charges. Please contact us today for an initial consultation with one of our attorneys.