Man filing certificate of relief in NC

Having a criminal conviction on your record can prevent you from getting a job, renting an apartment, and other matters that can affect your future. While getting a conviction expunged clears your record, that isn’t an option for most people with prior convictions. However, a Certificate of Relief offers you a path forward that is more obtainable and accessible. Our criminal defense lawyers in Raleigh are sharing what a Certificate of Relief is, the eligibility requirements, and how to get one in North Carolina. 

What Is a Certificate of Relief

A Certificate of Relief is a court order that is granted to people with certain types of criminal convictions in their past. It is a statement that the court deems the individual as trying to positively move forward after previous criminal convictions, and thus should be granted relief from disqualification resulting from the conviction. This does not remove, expunge, or pardon prior convictions, but it does act as proof that the individual is taking steps forward after conviction. 

Why is this important? Many employers, landlords, and institutions that extend credit may factor in previous convictions into their eligibility requirements so people with even minor convictions struggle to find work or rent an apartment, making it difficult for those who are trying to get on the right path. By having a Certificate of Relief, both parties are protected. 

  • The individual can not be disqualified from employment, renting, or holding professional licenses and can’t be penalized for a previous conviction
    • For example, a college can’t deny acceptance solely based on the conviction
  • The organization can’t be held liable for negligence if they hire/rent to/approve someone who has a Certificate of Relief

It’s important to note certain factors are unaffected by having a Certificate of Relief, including:

  • Necessary sex offender registration
  • Firearm disqualification
  • Being elected or named Sheriff
  • Federal bans on federal programs based on certain convictions

Who Is Eligible for a Certificate of Relief?

Not everyone who has a criminal conviction can receive a Certificate of Relief. Those who are eligible have been convicted of three or fewer Class H or I felonies and misdemeanors. Beyond that, the requirements in the North Carolina General Statute state: 

  • Twelve months must pass after completing the sentence, including probation, post-release supervision, and parole as well as complying with all requirements of the sentence, including rehab or anger management training
  • The individual must be actively engaged in, or seeking to engage in work, a training program, education, or another rehabilitative program, or if the individual has a lawful source of support. For example, if the individual is a stay-at-home parent with a working spouse, they could be eligible
  • No criminal charges pending against the individual, nor are they in violation of the terms of any criminal sentence
  • The individual must not pose “unreasonable risk” 

Additionally, the prosecuting attorney, the individual’s probation or parole officer, and any victims of the crime will be notified of the request.

Obtaining a Certificate of Relief

If you meet the requirements, you will need the form AOC-CR-273. This can be obtained electronically and printed, or you can visit the Office of the Clerk of Superior Court where they will provide you with a form. After you fill out the form, you will need to file the petition in the county where you were convicted, and the clerk’s office will contact the District Attorney’s office. A hearing will be scheduled, and you or your attorney may address the court, as well as any victims of the crime. The judge, clerk, or magistrate may preside over the hearing, and they will decide a ruling based on your eligibility. 

Schedule a FREE Consultation with an Attorney Today

Having an attorney to fill out the forms on your behalf, file with the proper clerk, and represent you during your hearing can improve your likelihood of receiving a Certificate of Relief.  At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler, & Thomas, PLLC, we have the experience and knowledge to look at your case and help you navigate your path forward, whether it’s through a criminal record expungement or a Certificate of Relief. To schedule a free consultation, reach out to us at 919-615-2473 or fill out the form below to get started.

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Jeff is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Raleigh. He has effectively represented the citizens of Wake County and all over North Carolina since 1989.

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