Employers, landlords, co-workers, and nosy neighbors now have much faster access to the criminal pasts of North Carolina residents.
Prior to January 2016, public computers used a 37-year-old DOS system that was virtually impossible to navigate. Now, a Windows-based system with plain English instructions promises to make the searching much easier. Cumberland County Clerk Kim Tucker added that the new system would also be less expensive, because searchers can have results sent directly to their e-mail accounts instead of paying the clerks for copies. The new CIPRS system also gives patrons access to the statewide database.
Users still have the option to use the older ACIS system, because the searches sometimes yield more detailed results.
Pretrial Diversion Program
Many counties offer a pretrial diversion program, mostly for first-time offenders. The programs vary by jurisdiction, but generally speaking, the defendant must complete counselling, pay restitution, perform community service, and comply with other probation-like conditions. At the end of the diversion program, the charges are typically dismissed.
Persons charged with certain felonies and misdemeanors may be eligible for deferred prosecution. Procedurally, the defendant pleads guilty or no contest. But, instead of entering a conviction, the judge defers the matter for a period of a few months, or perhaps longer. At the end of the term, if the defendant has complied with all conditions, the case is dismissed. Many local prosecutors are open to non-statutory deferred adjudication arrangements, so most all defendants may be eligible; the only substantive difference is that a non-statutory deferred prosecution might be unsupervised.
In both these instances, the person will have an arrest record but no conviction record. So, in the months, years, and decades to come, the people can honestly answer “no” when they are asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime. If the questioner presses further, which is unlikely, the standard reply is, “I hired a lawyer and the lawyer took care of it.”
Other defendants may be able (depending on their previous criminal record) to have all records related to the arrest and case completely erased. To be eligible, the defendant must have had their charges dismissed, a finding of not guilty or have been convicted of a misdemeanor or H-I felony that was not a prohibited offense, like a hate crime, drug, or sexual offense. The petitioner can request expunction fifteen years after the date of conviction.
After the judge reviews the petition, it is sent to the State Bureau of Investigation in Raleigh. Once the SBI certifies that the petitioner has met the criteria, and that certification process usually takes several months, there is a hearing before the judge. The prosecutor normally waives this hearing, meaning that the judge approves the petition without argument.
All records are either physically destroyed or returned to the petitioner, and all affected agencies must receive notice.
Partner with Experienced Attorneys
The thorough attorneys at Remington & Dixon, PLLC may be able to help you avoid some or all negative consequences of a criminal conviction. Contact us today for prompt assistance. Convenient payment plans are available.
Brandon double-majored in Political Science and Criminal Justice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He earned his Juris Doctor from Barry University School of Law in Orlando, Florida. Throughout his career, Brandon has received numerous awards and recognition from his peers and agencies that rate attorneys. A few of these awards are from The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Trial Lawyer in 2014, The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40 in 2014, Nation’s Top One Percent: National Association of Distinguished Counsel in 2015, Super Lawyers: Rising Stars in 2018 and 2019, and North Carolina Business Magazine: Legal Elite in 2019, among others.