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Late last year, NC updated a few laws concerning expunction.

What is an expunction?

Every time a person is charged with a crime, the information about the charge is stored by the court system. Even if a criminal charge is dismissed, the record of the arrest is still stored. These records, which include arrests, traffic violations, and convictions, are public record and can usually be found by completing a background check.

An expunction is the process of removing the record of a crime, including the arrest, names, dates, and the disposition from the public records. This action occurs in the county where the criminal charge was first brought forth. To obtain an expunction, one must be eligible. Depending on the type of expunction, there are various requirements for eligibility.

Reduced Waiting Periods For Conviction-Based Expunctions

Sometimes, a person can expunge a criminal charge that resulted in a conviction. In addition to other requirements, a person may be eligible to obtain an expunction for a non-violent criminal conviction if they wait a certain period of time.

Under the old law, a person convicted of a crime must wait fifteen years from either the date of their conviction in court, or from their release from jail, probation, or post-release supervision. Following the 2017 Amendment, the waiting period is reduced to fifteen years for a non-violent felony and only five years for a non-violent misdemeanor. All other requirements, such as “good moral character” and having no new criminal charges remain in effect. While this is a huge stride forward, hopefully this is only a first step towards helping people move past their criminal records.

Unlimited Expunctions For Dismissed Charges

The amendment to G.S. 15A-146 is the biggest and, in my opinion, the most important change to the North Carolina expungement laws.

Prior to the amendment, a person was only allowed one expunction for 1) a criminal charge that was dismissed, or 2) where the person was found not guilty or not responsible. Once that expunction was used, any new criminal charges would not be able to be expunged.

Following the amendment, all eligible individuals are permitted UNLIMITED expunctions for dismissed criminal convictions or cases where the person was found either not guilty or not responsible. Also, the expunction of a criminal charge where the person was found not guilty or not responsible is MANDATORY, so long as that person has not been convicted of a felony. This applies to infractions, misdemeanors, and even felony criminal charges!

The changes to the dismissed criminal charge expunction laws apply to old criminal charges as well. Even those who may have been denied an expunction in the past can now potentially have a charge removed from their permanent criminal record.

Conclusion

Beginning December 1st, 2017, the new expunction laws in North Carolina took effect. The benefits of allowing unlimited expunctions for dismissed criminal charges and a shorter waiting period for removing criminal convictions from criminal records are a major relief for North Carolinians. If you or a loved one have questions about obtaining an expunction or removing criminal charges from a criminal record, do not hesitate to speak with our North Carolina Criminal Defense lawyers today. Our office offers free consultations for criminal matters and our attorneys are standing by ready to help.