If you have ever been arrested in North Carolina – even if you weren’t charged – you probably have a criminal record. That strikes many people as unfair because it will show up in a criminal records check. Employers, landlords and educational institutions can find out about a prior arrest even if you were never actually charged or convicted of anything.
It can also be unfair if your criminal record contains an unflattering conviction. Sometimes, people just make mistakes. It shouldn’t haunt you for the rest of your life. Yet convictions can stay on your criminal record for years or even decades, tainting everything you try to do and forcing you to report the conviction when asked.
The good news is that North Carolina allows some people to clear up their criminal records, in some cases. There are several statutes that allow for “expungement” (sometimes called “expunction”), or the removal of a charge in your official criminal record.
5 main situations where adult criminal record expungement is available
Most people who qualify for expungement can only use the process once in a lifetime. If you qualify, the court and law enforcement officials will destroy or seal parts or all of your criminal record. This can erase it from most criminal records checks. There are exceptions and rules to be aware of, but expungement can be very helpful.
There are five main situations when people qualify for expungement of their adult criminal records (juvenile expungement is handled separately):
- Although you were arrested, the case against you was dismissed or you were found not guilty
- You received a pardon from the governor
- You were convicted of a misdemeanor or low-level felony before you turned 18
- Your conviction was drug- or alcohol-related and took place before you were 21
- At least 5 years have passed since you were convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor or 10 years following a low-level felony and you have not been convicted of any other crime since then
Depending on your circumstances, expungement may be available for many:
- Misdemeanor convictions
- Gang offenses
- Drug or drug paraphernalia offenses
- Toxic vapors convictions
- Nonviolent felonies
- Prostitution offenses
- Identity theft offenses
You might be eligible for expungement of more than one conviction. You could be eligible for more than one type of expungement. The process of gaining an expungement depends on your particular circumstances and the crime you were arrested for or convicted of.
Getting an expungement of your record can take a little time and effort, but it is usually well worth it. It allows you to move forward with your life without having to answer embarrassing questions about your criminal history.
It’s important to hire a dedicated, compassionate attorney who will go the extra mile to ensure your expungement is as full and effective as possible.