Many times, lower level criminal charges (such as possession of marijuana, shoplifting, or open container tickets) are eligible to be dismissed.  However, the dismissal of the charge does not end the consequences of the arrest.


In the North Carolina Courts, there are several ways a criminal charge can be dismissed. A person charged with multiple criminal offenses may be able to obtain a plea agreement with the District Attorney’s office, in which some of the charges are dismissed. A lawyer may be able to obtain a dismissal of criminal charges where a witness fails to appear in court, or where the evidence is lost or kept out of court following a suppression motion. Also, a person charged with a criminal offense may be eligible for a deferred prosecution.

Deferred Prosecutions

In North Carolina, there are two kinds of deferred prosecutions. The first is called an “informal deferral.” An informal deferral is where the prosecutor agrees to dismiss a criminal charge after the defendant complies with the terms of the deferral. Often the terms are to either pay restitution, or complete a specific number of hours of community service. Upon completion, the criminal charge will be dismissed.

The second type of deferred prosecution is known as a “formal deferred prosecution.” This is an agreement between a defendant and the prosecutor where the defendant will complete different terms, often including a period of probation, and after so much time the criminal charges will be dismissed.

Criminal Records

Regardless of how the charges are dismissed, the question remains whether the criminal charge will still show up on one’s background check. The short answer is YES. A person’s “criminal background check” will often show every time the person has been arrested, regardless of whether they were convicted. The issue, is dealing with the repercussions of a criminal arrest, including difficulties with employment, housing, and licensing.

Under North Carolina Law, if “a person is charged with a crime. . .and the charge is dismissed. . . that person may apply to the court of the county where the charge was brought for an order to expunge from all official records any entries relating to his apprehension or trial.” What this means is that if a person’s criminal charges are dismissed, that person can apply to have the record of the arrest expunged from his or her permanent criminal record.

There are some exceptions to this expunction law. For instance, the person seeking an expunction must not have been previously convicted of a felony. Also, this expunction is a one-time deal, meaning a person can only use the “dismissed charge expunction” once. However, the law may allow for the expunction of multiple dismissed charges. Additionally, there may be a filing fee as part of the expunction process.


As stated above, when asked if a dismissed criminal charge will show up on a background check, the answer is yes. However, a person who has had a criminal charge dismissed may be eligible to have all records of the arrest expunged.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a criminal offense, or has had a criminal charge dismissed, call the criminal defense attorneys at Dugan & Leger to discuss your options. We offer criminal defense services in Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus, New Hanover, Onslow, and Pender counties.