A criminal record is a heavy burden to bear in today’s society. It works against you at every turn. 60 percent of employers will not consider hiring ex-offenders. Most landlords will not rent to a convict, even though denial based on criminal record may violate federal law. It can hurt your chances at obtaining public benefits and other opportunities. This does not even begin to address the social stigma that may follow you around, including with your family, friends and community. This burden can follow a person around for the rest of his or her life.
But what can a person do after they have been convicted and served their debt to society?
Expunction in North Carolina
An expungement, or expunction as it is officially called in North Carolina, is the destruction of a criminal record by court order. This court order restores the individual in the view of North Carolina to the status he or she occupied before the criminal record existed. Essentially, it is as if the individual had never committed the crime to begin with. The individual may even, with certain exceptions, truthfully and without danger of being convicted of perjury state or refuse to acknowledge the criminal incident.
Narrow Category of Eligible Criminal Offenses
Expungement of a criminal record is a powerful remedy. As such, it is not available freely or widely. In order to obtain an order of expungement, not only does your criminal history have to be limited to specific crimes committed during certain periods of your life, but there is also a lengthy and complicated process to go through.
In general though, criminal records eligible for expunction in North Carolina are limited to four narrow categories:
- First-time offense committed under the age of 18 or 22;
- First-time, nonviolent offense committed more than 15 years ago;
- Criminal charge that was dismissed; and
- Criminal charge that lead to a verdict of ‘not guilty.’
There is also a limited option available only when a person with a criminal record has received an official pardon of innocence from the governor of North Carolina. However, this option is exceedingly rare and unusual.
Complex and Difficult Road to Expungement
If you are able to obtain an accurate and complete copy of your individual criminal record and determine that you are eligible for an expungement of your criminal record, you have just begun the first step in obtaining an expungement. The process is long and arduous. Even worse, it varies county to county in North Carolina, with each county requiring different documents and forms, as well as following different procedures in filing and holding hearings regarding the expungement.
Generally though, after determining that you may be eligible for expungement, you must obtain the correct petition form that is specific to the offense that was committed and the age at which it was committed. After obtaining the correct form, the next step is to file the filled out petition with any necessary required documentation. This could range from an affidavit of good character from persons unrelated to the individual, an affidavit of good behavior from the one seeking the expungement or no other documentation at all. There is also usually a filing fee that must be paid.
Next comes the county specific filing system for submitting the petition. After a waiting a few months to hear back from the courts whether or not your petition was accepted or rejected, you may also be required to attend a hearing to determine whether or not your petition for expunction should be granted or denied.
Disqualifications are Common
Your process to expunge your records can be derailed quite easily. There are a number of occurrences that can disqualify you from obtaining expungement, including:
- Having previously expunged a criminal record (You only get one in North Carolina);
- You have previous convictions;
- You have pending criminal charges; or
- You are currently on probation.
In some cases, depending on the offense committed, you must wait two years to apply for an expungement of your criminal records. In other cases, you must apply as soon as you complete probation or the charges against you are dropped.
Call a Charlotte, North Carolina Criminal Defense Attorney to Determine Your Eligibility
Even if you follow the proper process, you may still ultimately end up being denied in your quest for expungement. If there is one takeaway from this article it is that the expungement process in North Carolina is complex and difficult to obtain. This is an area of criminal law that can easily confuse and overwhelm a person not used to dealing with the administrative branches of government and the court system.
Because of the intricate nature of determining your eligibility for expungement, filing the correct paperwork, the piecemeal procedures county to county, and representing yourself in an expungement, it is almost a necessity that you have the proper guidance. The dedicated criminal defense lawyers in Charlotte, North Carolina at Remington & Dixon, PLLC can offer you direction in your difficult situation. Don’t go through it alone. For a free consultation, call us today or contact us online.
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.