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How expungement works in North Carolina

A criminal record can continue to hold you back in life long after you pay the specific legal penalty imposed. People concerned about the possibility their criminal record may bar them from employment, housing and educational opportunities often ask about the possibility of expungement.

Expungement, also called expunction, can be difficult to obtain in North Carolina. A great deal depends on the specific facts of your case, so be sure to discuss your concerns with an experienced attorney.

What does expunction do for you?

In North Carolina, expunction works by destroying the criminal record so no one has access to it. After a successful expunction, you have the right to state you have no criminal record (with respect to the matter covered by the expunction) in most circumstances.

Some exceptions do exist where you must reveal the expunged record. Chief of these is the area of immigration; North Carolina law sets forth some additional exceptions.

What offenses can be expunged?

Generally, under current law, three types of offenses can be expunged: charges that end up getting dismissed or with a "not guilty" disposition, first-time non-violent felonies dating more than 15 years back (with a shorter period for misdemeanors) and first-time offenses committed under the ages of 18 or 21 (depending on the type of offense).

New legislation makes it easier to get expunction for some

This summer, North Carolina passed a law easing some of the restrictions on expungements. The law will go into effect on December 1, 2017.

Under the new provisions, first-time nonviolent felony offenders will only need to wait 10 years to file for an expunction, and misdemeanor offenders will have to wait five. If you had a previous expunction of a case where charges were dismissed or you received an acquittal, you will now be able to apply for another expunction in a different case.

On the other hand, prosecutors and law enforcement personnel will now be able to gain electronic access to records even after expungement.


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