What Is Expungement

*UPDATE: Changes to the NC expungement law that took effect December 1, 2017. Find out how these changes could affect your criminal charges and if you still qualify for an expungement.*

Expungement is the process of going to court to ask a judge to seal a court record. Once the case is sealed (or “expunged”) all records of an arrest and subsequent court case are removed from the public record.

This means the records are unavailable through North Carolina state or Federal repositories and the individual may legally deny or fail to acknowledge ever having been arrested for or charged with that crime.

Legal Effect of an Expungement

Most of the time people ask for an expungement when they have been denied a job, housing, or a professional license because of their criminal background. There is a general understanding that people make mistakes in their lives and can be offered a second chance at being contributing members of their community.

That is why the court offers the process of expungement, so that juvenile records, misdemeanor convictions, arrests without convictions, and first-time offenders get another chance at life without their past criminal activity holding them back.

Expungement Can Affect Future Employment

Employers are legally restricted from denying someone employment because of an arrest record. However, if someone has a record that shows they were convicted of a crime, potential employers can legally deny that individual employment.

There are instances where this is not the case. For example, if someone with an arrest record were to apply for a law enforcement job or a job with the federal government or a criminal justice agency, those employers can legally deny employment based on the person’s entire criminal history, including arrests.

When someone succeeds at getting their criminal record expunged, they are more likely to secure employment, advance in their career more easily, and see their income levels increase in as little as a year after expungement.

Expungement for Future Housing Opportunities

Landlords cannot legally deny someone housing based on their background check or criminal record alone. However, private landlords can deny housing if they do not believe the applicant to be a “good fit.” Unless it’s stated that this denial is the result of your background check, you are not protected by human judgment and bias.

Are Expunged Records Completely Gone?

There are a lot of reasons someone would want to eliminate a record of their criminal history and courts are constantly trying to establish a balance between the integrity of keeping public records and that of giving people a second chance at life.

Who Can Access Expunged Files?

It’s important to remember that an expunged record means that your criminal history and prior convictions are sealed, not erased. Police, FBI, immigration officers and other public officials may still see sealed court files when needed.

If you are arrested and tried for another crime, a prosecutor’s office could request your court records to be unsealed or can petition state courts to allow them access to your criminal record when trying a new case against you.

Is there a Public Record of Expunged Cases?

While someone’s arrest history can be sealed by the expungement process whether or not a conviction occurred, this does not mean that the public record of their criminal activity will be erased.

For instance, an expunged arrest will not appear on a background check performed by potential employers or landlords, but the court cannot remove an arrest notice or police blotter published by law enforcement. Nor will any social media posts or news outlets that reported on the arrest or conviction be eliminated from existence in our Information age.

Additional documents or materials that are part of the public domain exist outside of the court’s jurisdiction and therefore are not affected by expungement. Expungement is not synonymous with complete privacy protection.

Expungement is a legal process that offers forgiveness and provides an opportunity by eliminating the chance for others to see your criminal history; it does not have the capability to eliminate every single piece of evidence of the crime from existence.

What criminal records can be expunged in North Carolina?

Offenses that may be expunged can range from parking fines to felonies. Different jurisdictions may allow expungement only for arrests and misdemeanor convictions and not allow felony convictions to be expunged.

If an individual is found not guilty of a misdemeanor charge, they are eligible for expungement almost immediately after the time of conviction. However, in cases that resulted in guilty verdicts for misdemeanor charges, individuals will have to complete a waiting period that is dependent on their age and the specific charge.

Larceny convictions, drug charges, and DWI arrests are common cases that succeed in the expungement process in NC courts. If you are unsure if you are eligible for expungement in a North Carolina court of law, contact one of our expungement law experts to help.

Can Felony Convictions Be Expunged From A Criminal Record?

In North Carolina, felony convictions for violent offenses cannot be expunged. A felony conviction is for a non-violent offense, however, is eligible as long as the individual was found not guilty.

Factors that determine eligibility for expungement

  • The type of offense you were arrested for (misdemeanor vs. felony, drug charge vs. domestic violence charge, etc.)
  • The location/jurisdiction where the crime was committed
  • Your age at the time of the offense
  • The outcome of the case (guilty vs. not guilty verdict)

How To Start the Expungement Process?

The best way to begin your process in applying for the expungement of your criminal record is to secure legal aid from a skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced expungement attorney.

You will need to petition the court for expungement by filling out the necessary court forms to seal your prior conviction and arrest. The expungement process will usually take anywhere from 9 to 12 months regardless of the charges.

Speak with a Criminal Lawyer in Raleigh or Wendell

Criminal laws in North Carolina can be pretty complicated, and knowing when an outcome is “in your favor” can be difficult to figure out. Speak with one of our criminal lawyers in Raleigh or Wendell, NC today to see if an expungement is right for you. Call us at 919-615-2473 or Request a case review today!

Protecting your Privacy ~ Your privacy is our primary concern.  At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, LLP., we understand the importance of protecting your privacy and will never share your contact information with a 3rd party. Contacting our law firm does not imply any form of attorney-client relationship.

Find Out If You Are Eligible for Expungement

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Information presented on this website should not be construed as formal legal advice or the formation of an attorney-client relationship.  Additionally, any email sent to Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, L.L.P. or any of its lawyers at the email addresses set forth in this website will not create an attorney-client relationship.

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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