Criminal record expunction

What is an expunction?

An expunction is the destruction of a criminal record by a court order.

A criminal record is the public record of a person’s criminal offense history. In North Carolina, adult criminal records are permanent and public.

If you are eligible for an expunction, once it is granted, you may truthfully indicate that the criminal proceeding for which the expunction was granted never occurred.

What can be expunged?

The rule for the type of offenses that can be expunged from your criminal record are determined by statute. Expunctions are granted by the State of North Carolina – that means, you cannot expunge records from other states or for federal offenses.

Expunction eligibility is broken up into the following categories:

  • Dismissed charges
  • Charges found not guilty or not responsible
  • Certain misdemeanors
  • Certain felonies

Violent offenses are rarely eligible for expunction. If you are unsure if an offense is considered violent for expunction purposes, you should contact an attorney. Offenses that are considered violent are outlined in the expunction statutes.

Dismissed charges

Any and all misdemeanor and felony charges resolved by Dismissal or through a finding of Not Guilty or Not Responsible are eligible for expungement.

  • As of December 2020:
    • No felony conviction barrier
    • No waiting period
    • Hearing no longer required
    • No limits on the number of times this expunction can be granted
    • Relief is mandatory when all charges are dismissed
  • Beginning December 2021:
    • The courts will implement automatic expunctions in two scenarios –
    • All charges in the case are disposed on or after December 1, 2021
    • All charges in the case are dismissed without leave, dismissed by the court, or result in a finding of not guilty/not responsible
    • Automatic expunctions are not retroactive

Misdemeanor expunctions

North Carolina allows for the expunction of a single, non-violent misdemeanor conviction.

  • Requirements
    • No other convictions
    • No outstanding court fees or restitution owed
    • At least 5 years must have had passed from the date of conviction or from the completion of the sentence, whichever is later
    • $175 filing fee (can be waived)
    • Relief is mandatory

North Carolina also allows for the expunction of multiple non-violent misdemeanor convictions.

  • Requirements
    • At least 7 years have passed from the date of completion of last conviction
    • No convictions for anything violent
    • No outstanding court fees or restitution owed
    • $175 filing fee (can be waived)
    • Relief is mandatory

Felony expunctions

North Carolina allows for the expunction of a single, non-violent felony convictions

Note: Multiple convictions in the same court session can be counted as a single conviction.
  • Requirements
    • At least 10 years have passed from the date of sentence completion of last conviction
    • No outstanding court fees or restitution owed
    • $175 filing fee (can be waived)
    • Relief is discretionary — judge will hold hearing to decide if expunction will be granted

Raise The Age relief

North Carolina now allows for the expunction of all misdemeanor and Class H and/or I felonies committed before December 1, 2019, by 16- and 17-year olds.

Notable exception: Motor vehicle offenses and offenses requiring sex offender registration are not eligible.
  • Requirements
    • Finished sentence (active time, probation, post-release supervision, payment of restitution/civil judgment)
    • No waiting period, no limit on the number of convictions/expunctions
    • Relief is mandatory

Self-help materials

Do not use these materials for traffic records!

Use these materials only if:

  • You are age 18 or older, and
  • You have criminal offense records in North Carolina

Warning

The following information will not be helpful to you in the following instances. If you are facing any of the below situations, please speak with an attorney before proceeding.

  • You have a federal criminal conviction OR a criminal conviction outside North Carolina. This does not include traffic violations. If you have an out of state or federal criminal record, speak with a criminal law attorney.
  • You have an open, active or pending misdemeanor or felony case in criminal court in North Carolina. If you have an open case, no court decision has been made. You must wait until that case is decided before you ask the courts for any expunction.
  • You owe the courts for any court costs, appointed lawyer fees, fines, restitution, jail fees, or a civil judgment stemming from the conviction. If you owe the court, or any victims restitution, the debt will be found when asking for an expunction. The courts will seek payment from you. Make sure all fees and restitution are paid before filing for an expunction.
  • You are serving parole or on probation due to a criminal conviction. You must meet all criminal court and post-sentence requirements before you petition the court for an expunction.
  • You are performing community service due to a criminal conviction. You must finish community service before you ask for any expunction.

In order to ask the courts for an expunction of a criminal record, you must file a petition. If you have criminal records/charges in more than one county, you must file a petition for expunction in each county where a court decision was made.

The rules for filing an expunction petition may vary by county. You should call the Clerk of Court to review the process for each county where you file a petition.

Legal Aid of North Carolina does not handle active criminal court cases. If you have an active case, or a case that is unresolved, you should consult a criminal defense attorney. If you do not have a lawyer, you may contact the Lawyer Referral Service at (800) 662-7660 or visit NCFindALawyer.org. The staff there will give you contact information for an attorney, who will give you a brief consultation for a fee.

Terms

Affidavit: A document signed and notarized in front of a notary public that is a statement verifying the information provided is true and accurate. Google can help you find a local notary.

Clerk of Court: Title of a person who is a court official. There is a clerk’s office in each county in North Carolina. The people that work in the office are court staff, also known as clerks.

Convictions: Charges that result from a guilty plea, a finding of guilt by a judge, or a jury returned a verdict of guilty.

Expunction: It is considered an expunction when information has been removed from court records.

Expungement: The process to remove (receive an expunction) eligible charges/convictions from a criminal record.

Filing fee: The cost that the court charges for accepting documents.

Indigent: A person who qualifies as low-income. If you are considered indigent, your filing fee may be waived.

Petition: The name of the document given to the clerk of court. A petition is a request for action by the court.

Expunging Dismissed/Not Guilty Criminal Charge Records

Where

You must file documents with the clerk of court in the county where the charge was dismissed, you must file petitions in each county/court where you have a criminal record.

When

There is no deadline. You may file this petition any time after the charges have been dismissed or you have been found Not Guilty.

Forms

Filing Instructions

You must file in each county and court (District and/or Superior Courts) where you have dismissed charges.

Cost $0, unless the dismissal occurred as the result of the completion of a deferred prosecution agreement or conditional discharge, if so, $175 (but may file indigent status fee waiver).

No affidavit required.

Expunging Misdemeanor/Felony Convictions

Where

You must file documents with the clerk of court in the county where the conviction(s) took place, you must file petitions in each county/court where you have a criminal record.

When

There is no deadline. You may file this petition any time after you have completed the statutory waiting period and paid all fines/restitution.

Forms

Filing instructions

You must file in each county and court (District and/or Superior Courts) where you have convictions.

Cost: $175 (but may file indigent status fee waiver)

Required affidavits

  1. Petitioner affidavit stating:
    1. Has good moral character
    2. No convictions (other than traffic violations) during applicable waiting period
    3. Petition is a motion in the cause
    4. No outstanding restitution order
  2. Two affidavits confirming good character from two individuals not related to you (or each other) who are familiar with the your reputation in the community.

Notice: Must provide notice to District Attorney

Judge has discretion whether or not to grant expunction for a nonviolent felony. If court denies petition, the order must include a finding as to the reason for the denial. For expunctions of an eligible nonviolent misdemeanor or multiple eligible nonviolent misdemeanor convictions, relief is mandatory and the judge must grant the petition.