Did you know that even if your traffic ticket case or underage alcohol possession charge is dismissed, the charges still show up on your permanent record? That's right. Even if you were 100% innocent and not convicted, anyone can see what you've been charged with by checking out your public record. That time you got arrested for DWI, but it was actually just food poisoning? All your prospective employer will see is that you got arrested for driving under the influence and they probably won't go digging to see how innocent you really were. Even if you get a voluntary dismissal, the original criminal charge will always be on your record. If your case was dismissed, you were found not guilty, or it has been four years since a conviction for certain charges, you can protect your reputation and rebuild your life by having your North Carolina criminal record expunged. Under other circumstances, you can have your record expunged after a specified amount of time. Record expunctions clean your record up, turning back time as if nothing ever happened. When your criminal record is expunged, then all searches of your public records will show a clean criminal history and a clean public arrest record. What Are the Rules for Record Expunctions in North Carolina? As soon as expungement is approved, North Carolina law states that you do not have to disclose that you were ever arrested, charged or stood trial for the expunged offense. Under North Carolina Law: “no person as to whom such an order has been entered… shall be held thereafter under any provision of any law to be guilty of perjury, or to be guilty of otherwise giving a false statement or response to any inquiry made for any purpose, by reason of the person’s failure to recite or acknowledge any expunged entries concerning apprehension, charge, or trial.” Record expunctions are available for anyone whose charges were either dismissed or they were found not guilty. Surprisingly, up until recently, you were only allowed one record expunction in your lifetime! Thankfully, in 2017, Senate Bill 445 went into effect reversing this rule and implementing other changes in how expungements are handled. How Senate Bill 445 Changed Record Expunctions in North Carolina One of the most significant changes to the expungement law is a reduction in the wait time to expunge non-violent misdemeanor and felony convictions. Here's a rundown of the most important changes to the record expunction laws:
- Misdemeanor convictions can now be expunged after 5 years instead of 15.
- Felony convictions can now be expunged after 10 years instead of 15.
- There is no more limit on how many dismissals can be expunged.
- Prosecutors and law enforcement personnel will have access to all records.
How to Get a Record Expunction in North Carolina To expunge a criminal record in North Carolina, you must file your petition at the county courthouse where you were charged. You must fill out the specific AOC form that applies to you. The forms are based on your age, charge, the outcome of the case, and other factors. Expungement fees can range from $0 to $175, depending on the charge and the outcome of the case. Case dismissals and non-guilty verdicts are free of charge. Expunging a Felony Conviction If you are charged with a felony and your case results in a conviction, the waiting period depends on the charge and your age. Violent felony convictions are typically never eligible for expungement. Expunging a Misdemeanor Conviction If you are charged with a misdemeanor and you are found guilty, the waiting period for expungement depends on your age and the specific charge. Expunging a Larceny Conviction If you are convicted of Misdemeanor Larceny and you are over the age of 18, you are eligible for expungement 5 years after your conviction. If you are under the age of 18, you are eligible after 2 years. Expunging a Drug Charge Conviction The new expungement law stipulates wait periods ranging from 12 months to 10 years for those under age 22 when they were convicted. You may also be required to successfully complete the 90-96 program, after which you are immediately eligible. Expunging a DWI Conviction DWI convictions are excluded from the non-violent misdemeanor classification and are never eligible for expungement. Regardless of which scenario above applies to your situation, the expungement process typically takes between 9 and 12 months in North Carolina. To file for expungement, you must go to the county courthouse where you were charged. For example, if you were charged with a crime in Mecklenburg County, you must file your petition in Charlotte, North Carolina. Having a criminal lawyer help you with your expungement in North Carolina is not required, but highly recommended. The expungement process is lengthy and extremely complicated. To file, you must do so under the applicable statute, using the correct AOC form, fill it out correctly, and potentially go to court. An error along the way can lead to a major delay in what is already a year-long or longer process. These delays could come at the worst time possible, too, like when you land the perfect job and then it falls apart because of your record. Don't let your arrest record tarnish your reputation. When you have your record expunged, you can erase youthful mistakes, misunderstandings, and wrongful charges. Information that could hurt your chances for a good job, getting into college, or even finding a place to live can be removed from your public record for good. Contact experienced expungement attorneys in Charlotte at the Law Offices of Jason H. Reece. We'll help you get that record cleaned up and give you a clean slate so you can get on with your life.