What Crimes Can Get Expunged in North Carolina?

Even with the best criminal defense attorney, avoiding a conviction for a crime is not always possible. An unfortunate aspect of our criminal justice system is that a person's criminal record can often make them pay for their crimes long after they have been released from jail and paid back their debt to society. Being arrested and charged with a crime without being convicted can have the same negative effect on a person's future.

If you have a criminal record in North Carolina and you are wondering whether you can get it wiped clean through expungement, do not hesitate to contact the criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation. During your initial consultation, we can answer questions and help you understand whether you can get your criminal record expunged.

What Does Expunction Do?

North Carolina uses the term “expunction” rather than “expungement.” However, these terms mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. When a court grants an expunction, a judge's order erases a person's criminal record. After a person's criminal record has been expunged, they can honestly say they have not committed that crime when employers, admissions officials, or any other person ask them. There is an exception to this general rule for specific immigration purposes.

The Second Chance Act

In 2020, the North Carolina legislature passed the Second Chance Act. The law makes the expungement of certain dismissals and not-guilty verdicts automatic. It also expands the eligibility for petition-based relief. Dismissals and acquittals of charges disposed of on or after December 1, 2021, will be expunged automatically in most cases, even when the individual has a previous conviction.

Felony charges dismissed by plea deal will not be eligible for automatic expungement, but those convicted can petition the court for an expungement. Additionally, the law allows for more than one non-violent misdemeanor conviction to be expunged after seven years, along with certain convictions when the defendant was between 16 and 18 years old when convicted.

How Do I Get My Criminal Record Expunged in North Carolina?

The exact process for pursuing an expunction depends on the criminal record. Generally, the process is covered on the instruction sheet for each relevant type of petition. There may be some local differences in procedures from one county to the next. The fee for filing a petition for expunction is $175, but some expunction statutes do not require a fee. For example, suppose charges were dismissed or ended in a “not guilty” verdict. In that case, you will not have to pay a fee to petition the court to expunge your record unless the dismissal was based on completing a diversion program or deferred prosecution agreement.

The expunction process generally takes a few months but could take longer, depending on the time required for criminal record checks and to schedule an expunction hearing. Sometimes, the judge will hold a hearing to determine whether you have good character. For others, the judge may rule on your petition without a hearing after reviewing your record. If a judge denies your expunction, you may have a right to pursue an appeal. There may be a short deadline to do so, however.

The Following Types of Criminal Records Can Generally Be Expunged

Dismissals and verdicts of not guilty can be removed from your record through an expunction. Additionally, some types of convictions can be removed through a petition. For example, class H crimes, including larceny of property, possession of stolen goods, embezzlement, and others, can be expunged. Similarly, certain felonies, including breaking or entering motor vehicles, marijuana possession, and others, are generally eligible for expunction.

Nonviolent misdemeanors, such as second-degree trespass charges, are also eligible for expunction. Even when petitioners have a qualifying charge, they must meet additional criteria to get an expunction successfully. The petitioner cannot be on probation or parole anywhere, cannot have any arrest warrants, and cannot have any open criminal cases.

Specific types of violent crimes are not eligible for expunction. Violent misdemeanors such as child abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are not eligible. Class A felonies, including murder, and felonies requiring sex offender registration, such as sexual battery, incest, and human trafficking, are never eligible for expunction. In 2015, an amendment passed by the legislature made driving while under the influence (DWI) an offense that can never be removed from a person's criminal record through expunction.

Looking to Expunge a Criminal Conviction in North Carolina?

If you have been convicted of a crime in North Carolina, your future could be in jeopardy. An expungement can help clear the way for your future success. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial. Contact the skilled criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, to schedule a free case evaluation.