Expunction offers a fresh start to many nonviolent North Carolina offenders
If you have been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor, you know that criminal convictions can change your life forever. Aside from the jail time, fines, community service and other punitive aspects, a conviction can also affect many other areas of your life. For example, people with criminal convictions are often prohibited from possessing a firearm or denied offers of employment.
Although it may seem that a criminal conviction would stay with you your entire life, this is not necessarily the case, due to North Carolina’s expunction laws. Expunction is the process that allows qualified applicants to remove arrests and convictions from their records.
For many years, North Carolina’s expunction laws have primarily applied to young adults that were convicted of certain misdemeanors (e.g., alcohol, drug and certain gang-related offenses) when they were under 18 or 21 years of age, depending on the offense. During this time, felonies and criminal convictions of adults could not be expunged. However, the North Carolina Legislature recently broadened the eligibility for expunction to individuals convicted of certain felonies or misdemeanors, regardless of age.
ELIGIBILITY FOR EXPUNCTION
Under the new expunction law, individuals convicted of nonviolent misdemeanors or felonies for the first time are eligible to petition the court to have their convictions removed from their records. Under the law, offenses that are not eligible for expunction are:
- Class A through G felonies and Class A1 misdemeanors
- Any offense that includes assault as an essential element of the offense
- Any felony offense involving the possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine or any felony offense involving methamphetamines or heroin
- Certain offenses against the civil rights of others
- All felonies where a commercial motor vehicle was used during the commission of the crime
- Certain sex-related or stalking offenses
Persons that are convicted of eligible nonviolent felonies and misdemeanors can begin the expunction process by petitioning the court no earlier than 15 years after the date of the conviction, or the last day that the sentence was served, whichever is later. However, in order to be eligible for expunction, the person must not have had subsequent convictions during the 15-year period, except for traffic offenses.
In addition to those with a clean record, expunction is only available to those convicted of a single nonviolent offense, unless multiple convictions for eligible nonviolent offenses occurred in the same court session. Also, persons convicted of nonviolent offenses can only petition for expunction once in their lives.
Once the petition has been filed, it is in the court’s discretion whether to grant expunction. If expunction is granted, the record of the conviction is wiped clean and the person no longer needs to disclose the conviction in most cases (e.g. housing or employment applications). However, the law still requires expunged convictions to be disclosed in certain limited circumstances (e.g. law enforcement employment applications).
AN ATTORNEY CAN HELP
For many of those with convictions because of a single indiscretion, expunction can offer the opportunity of a second chance in life. If you are interested in pursuing expunction, it is important to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. An attorney can advise you on this complicated area of law and assist you in putting together a petition that will maximize your chances of success.