Court records, social media and yearbooks – what do these have in common? These among other footprints are left on a trail that never goes away in the age of the internet. The good news is that sometimes, a person with a criminal record in North Carolina may qualify to get part or all of their record erased. This erasing or removal is called an expungement. One common misconception about criminal charges is that they just go away on their own or are never really seen. Even if charges were dismissed or if you live in another state, North Carolina keeps a record of your charges. These charges can show up in any state due to records that the FBI shares with other law enforcement agencies.
Do I even qualify for an expunction?
The first step in the expungement process is determining eligibility. The North Carolina expungement laws provide for the expungement of certain charges or convictions if specific requirements are met. But it doesn’t matter if the petitioner lives in New Jersey or New York or any other state. A person can qualify for expunging a North Carolina record even if he or she doesn’t live in there anymore. Because these laws are very technical, it is smart that you get an attorney who has an in-depth understanding of all of the record clearing options available in North Carolina in order to receive the best outcome possible.
For example, there are some cases where one may be able to get a charge amended so that it can be expunged. Other times, a person may be eligible for more than one expungement. However, the order of those expungements is crucial because certain expungements prevent you from getting another expungement. It is good to tell the attorney as much as possible about any prior expungements, federal charges, and even offenses from other states since these can affect one’s eligibility.
Dismissal is often eligible for expunction (another word for expungement), absent a felony conviction. A conviction for a non-violent offense such as larceny, shoplifting or a low-level drug charge may be expunged if the other circumstances are met. However, convictions for crimes such as assault, robbery, child abuse and DWI are categorically not eligible for expunction. Also, one must generally wait 10 years after the end of probation for a felony or 5 years for a misdemeanor to expunge the conviction. If the petitioner was under 18 at the time of the offense, a short wait period may apply.
From Petition to Order
After determining eligibility, these are the basic steps to making sure the records are erased entirely:
- A petition is filed with the Clerk of Court in the county where the charges originated.
- Law enforcement and record management agencies review the petition and submit records to be reviewed by a judge.
- A judge either grants or denies the petition for expunction.
- If the petition is granted, the clerk removes county records and sends the order to the agencies with a record of the offense.
How long does it take to get an expungement in North Carolina?
This entire expungement process can take anywhere from six to twelve months. And while that may seem like a long time, the wait is well worth the peace of mind knowing that your charges have been expunged. An attorney can usually handle the process so the petitioner will not have to travel to North Carolina.
Why should I get an expungement?
Expunging your criminal record can allow you to get a better job, rent a nicer living space and even carry a firearm again. Of course, it will also help when people who might become your friends or in-laws one day check you out online. It’s always worth checking to see, and if you don’t qualify now, maybe you will in the future.
Attorney Josh Valentine of Caulder and Valentine Law Firm represents clients in expungement matters across North Carolina. For more information, visit ncrecordexpungements.com.