When you are convicted of a crime, a criminal record is created and accessible to the public. Even if your charges are dropped or the court delivers a verdict of not guilty, the charge will still appear on your criminal record. Thankfully, one bad decision does not need to follow you forever. Under North Carolina law, many criminal matters qualify for expungement allowing you to salvage your record and erase your criminal record.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many changes in the court system. The expungement process has been expanded, removing prior limitations. How do you know if you qualify for expungement and if the expanded law can help you?
What is expungement?
Expungement is the process of sealing a criminal record. Ordered by a judge, an expungement limits the visibility of a criminal charge or conviction so that to the public, it is as though it never happened. An expunged record is still visible to the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), prosecutors, and law enforcement.
Do I qualify for expungement?
Many misdemeanors and felonies eventually qualify for expungement, though some classifications of felony convictions are barred from expungement. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, you may qualify for an expungement after five years. An expungement is appropriate if the misdemeanor charge was dropped by the district attorney, if your case was dismissed by the court, or if you were found not guilty at trial. Even if you are convicted, you may still qualify to have the conviction expunged; however, the waiting period varies by age and charge.
For felonies, there is a waiting period of ten years. Other qualifications for felony expungement include not having a felony conviction on record, dismissal of the case, or a not guilty verdict. Class A to G and violent crimes may not qualify for expungement. A DWI conviction, for instance, is never eligible for expungement.
How do I get my record expunged?
You must file a petition with the county courthouse where you were charged. Forms vary based on which expungement rules apply to your situation, so it is important that you complete the correct form, file it in the appropriate jurisdiction, and pay applicable filing fees. Our experienced attorneys are well-versed in the process and can ensure your petition is complete and filed without error.
Clean Slate under COVID
Under the Second Chance Act, signed into law during the thick of the pandemic last summer, the law on expungements was expanded. The pandemic left tens of thousands of North Carolinians out of work and for those with a criminal record, it can be exceptionally difficult to secure new employment. The Second Chance Act makes it easier and quicker to have a criminal record expunged. Individuals with multiple non-violent criminal convictions can get an expungement and misdemeanor and low-level felony convictions that were charged when the individual was under the age of eighteen can be expunged automatically.