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Can you expunge your North Carolina criminal record?

If you or someone you love has a criminal record, you may find that it hurts your ability to secure a job, maintain strong ties with family members or find affordable housing, among other barriers it can potentially present. Sometimes, having a criminal record can haunt you long after you commit your initial crime, but in some cases, you may be able to take some steps to minimize the damage your criminal record causes.

In North Carolina, having your criminal record erased, essentially, is known as “expunction” or “expungement,” but not everyone with a criminal record is eligible for it. What expunction does is clear your offense from your criminal record, meaning you can typically deny having ever committed your offense without having to fear perjury charges or other potential repercussions. While expunction more or less destroys your criminal record, it is important to note that there is one exception to being able to avoid acknowledging you ever had a conviction. In any communications you may have with federal immigration officials, you must still acknowledge your offense.

Criminal records and expunction eligibility 

For you to receive a criminal record expunction, you and the crime committed must typically meet certain eligibility requirements. More specifically, one of three circumstances must apply to you:

1. Your offense was a nonviolent, first-time offense, and it occurred more than 15 years ago.

2. Your offense was a first-time offense, and you were under a certain age (either 18 or 22, depending on the crime) when you committed it.

3. You were charged with a crime and your charge was either dismissed or ultimately disposed “not guilty,” meaning all issues related to your case were fully resolved in a particular manner.

If you and your crime meet any of the above criteria, you may be able to pursue an expunction so that “collateral consequences,” or the repercussions you face that are not necessarily criminal in nature, no longer affect you.

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