North Carolina’s New Expunction Laws

It can be hard to move on with your life after a criminal conviction. Finding a job, getting into school, or finding housing, can all be negatively impacted by a criminal conviction on your record. However, ways exist to clear your record and the state of North Carolina has recently made it easier to do so.

Clearing your criminal record is called expunction and there is a waiting period after you have served your sentence before you can apply to have your record expunged. Until recently, the waiting period for expunging certain felony and misdemeanor convictions was 15 years.

North Carolina lawmakers recognized that expunction laws were making it too hard for millions of state residents to get back to being productive members of society after they had served their punishments. For those with criminal records it is often hard for them to reenter the workforce and being unable to find a job increases the chance that ex-cons will re-offend and end up back in prison.

Recently, the North Carolina legislature made sweeping changes that reduces waiting periods and removes the limit on how many dismissals can be expunged. Now misdemeanor convictions can be expunged after only 5 years and felonies can be expunged after 10 years.

Below is a chart that summarizes the major changes to North Carolina’s expunction laws.

Expunction Eligibility

·      Expunction of nonviolent misdemeanor under G.S. 15A-145.5 wait period reduced from 15 years to 5 years.

·      Expunction of nonviolent felony under G.S. 15A-145.5 wait period reduced from 15 years to 10 years.

·      The “no prior expunction” requirement for expunging a dismissed or not guilty charge under G.S. 15A-146 is eliminated. A person can expunge dismissed and not guilty charges multiple times.

·      A person can expunge all dismissed and not guilty charges as long as they have not been convicted of a felony. The “same 12-month period” and “same term of court” requirements for expunging more than one charge are removed from G.S. 15A-146.

·      The types of convictions eligible for expunction and the “first-time” requirement is unchanged.

Uniform Procedures

·      Expunction petitions are now filed with the clerk of court instead of through the NCSBI.

·      Verification of an expunction can be requested from the NCAOC directly.

·      The NCAOC will have standard petition forms for expunction.

 

Convictions Expunged After July 1, 2018 Will be Calculated as Prior Records if Person Reoffends

·      A court may use a conviction expunged after July 1, 2018 to calculate prior record level when sentencing for a subsequent conviction.

·      Except for expunctions of charges disposed “not guilty,” prosecutors will have electronic access to all criminal records expunged after July 1, 2018.

 

Exceptions still exist for certain crimes. Class A through Class G felonies are not eligible for expungement. Class A through G felonies include a wide range of violent crimes and particularly serious offenses such as murder, burglary, robbery, sale of a schedule I or II controlled substance, arson, rape and other sex offenses, and identity theft.

Class A1 misdemeanors are also excluded from expungement. These misdemeanors include crimes such as sexual battery, assaulting an officer, or assaulting a child under 12 years old.

Any offense involving impaired driving is also explicitly excluded from the expungement statute, so DWIs are not eligible under the law.

The chart below will give you a detailed breakdown of the criteria for expunging specific record types. You can also click the record type to see the relevant statute.

 

Expunction Type

 

 Criteria
Juvenile Record – Dismissal

1.     Alleged by juvenile petition to be delinquent or undisciplined juvenile;

2.     Juvenile petition was dismissed;

3.     Person has attained the age of:

i.   16 years if alleged delinquent;

 ii.   18 years if alleged undisciplined.

Juvenile Record – Undisciplined

1.     Adjudicated undisciplined;

2.     Attained the age of 18 years;

3.     Good behavior since adjudication.

 

Juvenile Record – Delinquent

1.     Adjudicated delinquent;

2.     At least 18 years old;

3.     Offense for which the person was adjudicated would NOT have been a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony if committed by an adult;

4.     At least 18 months have elapsed since petitioner was released from juvenile court jurisdiction;

5.     Not subsequently adjudicated delinquent;

6.     Not convicted as an adult of any felony or misdemeanor, other than a traffic violation.

Misdemeanor Under 18

1.     Misdemeanor conviction committed before age 18 OR misdemeanor possession of alcohol (18b302(b)(1)) committed before age 21

i.   Both violent and nonviolent        misdemeanors are eligible. The only ineligible misdemeanor offense is impaired driving under G.S. 20-4.01(24a)*

2.     No previous misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than traffic violations.

3.     No subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than traffic violations, within 2 year waiting period.

4.     At least 2 years have passed since the date of conviction.

5.     The individual has fully completed his or her sentence

 

Gang Offense Under 18

1.     Conviction for a Class H felony under Article 13A, Chapter 14, OR an offense for which punishment was enhanced pursuant to GS 14-50.22.

2.     No previous felony or misdemeanor convictions other than a traffic violation

3.     Date of offense was prior to petitioner’s 18th birthday.

4.     At least 2 years have passed since conviction.

5.     Petitioner has completed all terms of sentence.

6.     No felony or misdemeanor convictions other than traffic offenses for two years from the date of conviction.

7.     No outstanding restitution or civil judgments representing amounts ordered for restitution.

 

Dismissed Drug Charge Under Age 22

1.     Charge dismissed or finding of not guilty;

a.   Misdemeanor charge under Art 5, Chap 90

b.   Felony charge under 90- 95(a)(3)

i.   Prior to 2012, less than1 gram of cocaine

ii.   2012 and beyond, a controlled substance

2.     Not over 21 years

 

Drug Conviction Under Age 22

1.     Conviction for:

a.     Misdemeanor Drug Possession (under Chapter 90, Article 5);

b.     Misdemeanor Drug Paraphernalia (under GS 90-113.22); OR

c.     Felony Possession under GS 90-95(a)(3)*

2.     At least 12 months have passed since the date of conviction.

3.     Petitioner was not over the age of 21 at the time of the offense.

4.     Petitioner has either successfully completed drug program or will ask the court to waive this requirement.

5.     Petitioner has no other felony conviction, misdemeanor conviction under Chapter 90, or any conviction related to controlled substances. **

6.     No prior expunction under 15A-145.2(c).

 

Dismissed Charge Toxic Vapors / Drug Paraphernalia Charge Under 22

1.     Charge dismissed under G.S. 90-113.14(a) or (a1) diversionary program.

2.     Not over 21 years of age at time of offense.*

Dismissed Charge Toxic Vapors/Drug Paraphernalia Charge Under 22

 

1.     Misdemeanor charge:

a.     Under Article 5A, Chapter 90

b.     For possession of drug paraphernalia under GS 90- 113.22

2.     Charge dismissed or finding of not guilty;

3.     Not over 21 years of age at time of offense.

 

Toxic Vapors/Drug Paraphernalia Conviction Under Age 22

 

1.     Misdemeanor conviction under Chapter 90, Article 5A.

2.     At least 12 months have passed since the date of conviction.

3.     Petitioner was not over the age of 21 at the time of the offense.

4.     Petitioner has either successfully completed drug program or will ask the court to waive this requirement.

5.     Petitioner has no other conviction under Articles 5, 5A, or 5B of Chapter 90, or any other conviction related to controlled substances. **

6.     No prior expunction under 15A-145.3(c).

 

 

Nonviolent Felony Under 18

 

1.     Conviction of a nonviolent felony *

a.     Multiple felonies may be treated as one conviction ONLY if convictions occurred in the same session of court.

2.     Date of offense for felony conviction was prior to 18th birthday.

3.     No prior misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than traffic violations. (see FAQ 9)

4.     No subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than traffic violations, within 4 year waiting period.

5.     At least 4 years have passed since the date of conviction.

6.     The individual has fully completed his or her sentence (incl. probation)

7.     The petitioner has no outstanding warrants or pending criminal cases

8.     No previous expunction.

9.     Petitioner has performed 100 hours of community service since conviction and has a HS diploma or GED.

 

 

 

Nonviolent Misdemeanor or Felony (Any Age)

 

1.     One nonviolent felony or nonviolent misdemeanor conviction*

a.     Multiple convictions may be treated as one conviction ONLY if convictions occurred in the same session of court AND none of the offenses are alleged to have occurred after the petitioner had already been charged with any of the offenses resulting in conviction.

2.     No other misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than traffic violations.

3.     For a felony conviction, at least 10 years have passed since the date of conviction.** For a misdemeanor conviction, at least 5 years have passed since the date of the conviction.**

4.     The individual has fully completed his or her sentence (incarceration, probation, etc).

5.     The petitioner has no outstanding warrants or pending criminal cases

6.     No previous expunctions under 15A-145, -145.1, – 145.2, -145.3, -145.4, – 145.5

 

 

Prostitution Offense

1.     Conviction for a prostitution offense:

a.     under GS §14-204 (after 9/30/2013)

b.     under GS §14-204(7) (prior to 10/1/2013)

2.     No prior convictions for any violent misdemeanor or violent felony*

3.     Satisfies ONE of the following three criteria:

a.     Participation in the prostitution offense was a result of having been a trafficking victim;

b.     The person has no prior convictions for a prostitution offense and at least 3 years have passed since the date of conviction or the completion of any sentence, whichever is later; OR

c.     Petitioner received a conditional discharge pursuant to GS §14- 204(b)

4.     No subsequent misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than traffic violations.

5.     No outstanding warrants or pending criminal cases

6.     No outstanding restitution orders or civil judgments representing amounts order for restitution

 

 

Charge Not Resulting in Conviction

 

1.     Felony charge or misdemeanor charge was disposed of by a dismissal, finding of not guilty, or finding of not responsible.

a.     Multiple charges may be expunged.

b.     A previous expunction does not disqualify a person from expunging a subsequent criminal record.

2.     Petitioner has not been convicted of a felony.*

 

Identity Theft / MisidentificationFor charges filed before Dec. 1, 2015, an individual may petition for expunction if:

1.     The identity of the petitioner was used without permission of the petitioner and this use resulted in a charge(s) against the petitioner.

2.     The charge(s) against the petitioner in this matter was:

3.     Dismissed, Disposed “not guilty,” or conviction set aside

 

 

There are lots of other nuances and caveats to the North Carolina expunction laws. If you have a criminal record and are looking to get your life back on track, you should hire an attorney to help you explore your options. If you have stayed out of trouble you may have an opportunity to expunge your record. Contact Coolidge Law Firm today, we can help you turn things around.

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