Topic: Criminal record expunction

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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 receive an expunction, you can truthfully state that the criminal proceeding you got expunged never occurred.

Note: “Expunctions” are sometimes called “expungements.” The two words mean exactly the same thing.

What can be expunged?

North Carolina law determines the types of offenses that can be expunged from your criminal record. North Carolina courts can only expunge criminal records involving violations of North Carolina state law. Our courts cannot expunge criminal records from other states or federal criminal records.

In general, you may be eligible for an expunction if any of the following are true:

  • You have dismissed or not guilty charges. How do I get this kind of expunction?
    • There is no longer any waiting period or requirement that you have no felony convictions.
    • A hearing is not required, although the judge may request one.
    • There are no limits to how many times you can expunge dismissed charges.
    • The court must grant your expunction if you weren’t convicted of anything on the same day as any of your dismissals.
  • You have any misdemeanor convictions or class H or I felony convictions where the offense happened when you were 16 or 17 years old. How do I get this kind of expunction?
    • This only applies to offenses that happened before December 1, 2019.
    • Traffic offenses and sexual battery are excluded from this type of expunction.
    • You must have completed your sentence or probation
    • You can’t owe any restitution to get this type of expunction.
    • If you apply to expunge these convictions correctly, the court must grant you the expunction.
  • You have one “nonviolent” misdemeanor conviction and at least 5 years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. How do I get this kind of expunction?
    • All convictions that happen at the same court date count as one conviction.
    • You can’t owe any restitution to get this type of expunction.
    • You cannot have any pending charges, other than traffic tickets.
    • The court must grant you this expunction if you apply for it correctly.
  • You have multiple “nonviolent” misdemeanor convictions and at least 7 years have passed since the end or your sentence or probation. How do I get this kind of expunction?
    • All convictions that happen at the same court date count as one conviction.
    • You can’t owe any restitution to get this type of expunction.
    • You cannot have any pending charges, other than traffic tickets.
    • The court must grant you this expunction if you apply for it correctly.
  • You have one “nonviolent” felony conviction and at least 10 years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. How do I get this kind of expunction?
    • All convictions that happen at the same court date count as one conviction.
    • You can’t owe any restitution to get this type of expunction.
    • You cannot have any pending charges, other than traffic tickets.
    • A judge will decide whether or not to grant this type of expunction.
  • You have two or three “nonviolent” felony convictions and at least 20 years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. How do I get this kind of expunction?
    • All convictions that happen at the same court date count as one conviction.
    • You can’t owe any restitution to get this type of expunction.
    • You cannot have any pending charges, other than traffic tickets.
    • A judge will decide whether or not to grant this type of expunction.

How can I get help with my expunction?

Legal Aid of North Carolina has several programs that can help qualified people to get expunctions. You can call our helpline at 1-866-219-5262 or apply online to get help preparing the paperwork you need to file your own expunction anywhere in the state. Durham County residents can apply for help through the DEAR Program on the 6th floor of the Durham County courthouse. Intake hours are Monday through Wednesday, 10am-3pm.

How can I file an expunction on my own?

  • Get a copy of your criminal record. Every courthouse has public computers you can use to see your entire background check. You can find your local courthouse here.
  • Fill out the correct court form for your type of expunction. Fill out one form for each county you have charges in. Do not include charges for more than one county per form.
  • Fill out any other forms that you might need
    • Fee waiver form: Sometimes the court charges a fee to file for an expunction. This can be up to $175. Fill out this form if you cannot afford to pay a fee.
    • Additional agencies/offenses: Use this form if you can’t fit all of your charges or arresting agencies that need to be notified on one page.
    • Affidavits: If you are expunging adult “nonviolent” misdemeanors and/or felonies, you must include three additional things.
      • A notarized statement signed by you that says the following things:
        • I am of good moral character.
        • The petition is a motion in the cause in the case wherein I was convicted.
        • I have not been convicted or any other felony or misdemeanor, other than a traffic violation, under the laws of the United States or the laws of the United States or the laws of this State or any other state during the applicable five-year, seven-year, 10-year, or 20-year waiting period set forth in G.S. 15A-145.5(c).
        • I have no outstanding restitution orders or civil judgements representing amounts ordered for restitution.
        • I acknowledge that except as provided in G.S. 15A-145.5(c), the expunction of one nonviolent misdemeanor prior to the seven-year waiting period or one nonviolent felony prior to the 20-year waiting period will preclude me from expunging additional nonviolent misdemeanors that might otherwise be eligible for expunction pursuant to G.S. 15A-145.5(c)(1)(b).
        • I have submitted, or intend to submit, petitions to expunge convictions in these other counties with these other file numbers. [Include only if you are filing for expunction in more than one county or court.]
      • Two notarized statements from people who are not related to you or each other saying your character and reputation are good.
  • Take the completed forms to the right place.
    • The court forms for expunctions of any convictions must be signed by the District Attorney before you turn them in to the court.
    • The forms and additional materials go to either the criminal district or criminal superior clerk of court in each county you have charges in.
    • You can find the address for every courthouse in the state here.   

Common Terms

Affidavit: A written statement made under oath; for expunctions, this term generally means a statement that is signed in front of a notary.  

Clerk of Court: Title of a person who is a court official

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

Expunction: The removal of information from court records. “Expunctions” are sometimes called “expungements,” which means the exact same thing.

Expunge: To remove information from court records. “Expunge” and “expunction” mean the exact same thing.

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 court form given to the clerk of court. A petition is a request

The Central Intake Unit Expunction Team intakes clients, offers criminal record analysis, and drafts expunction petitions for pro se filing in all 100 North Carolina counties. The Expunction Team also partners with law schools and community groups from across the state to offer mass relief clinics and monthly educational presentations. 

The Wilmington Second Chance Project is a partnership between local government and community leaders to create and implement mass relief efforts and provide direct representation in expunction cases for New Hanover County residents. The Wilmington Second Chance Project also provides advice and assistance with driver’s license restoration

Topic: Criminal record expunction

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Attend our free Criminal Record Expunction Clinic to learn if you can remove any information from your criminal record. Sign up for the clinic here. The clinic is held in locations throughout the state. If you do not see a clinic in your county, please check nearby counties.

The clinic will provide you with general legal information and guidance only. The clinic will not provide you with specific, individual legal advice. If you need more help after the clinic, call our toll-free Helpline to apply for help.

You may be able to ask the courts to expunge dismissed charge records and not guilty decision records on your own. Review our Criminal Record Expunction resource for more information.

For your convenience, we hold all of our clinics electronically using Facebook Live and Zoom. All of the clinics are completely free and open to the public.

  • Facebook Live: To participate using Facebook, visit our Facebook Live page when the clinic starts. You do not need a Facebook account to watch the presentation, but you do need an account to send questions to the presenters. Sign up for a free Facebook account.
  • Zoom: To participate using Zoom, use the listing below to register for the clinic you are interested in. You do not need a Zoom account to participate in the clinic. Once you register, you will receive an email containing a link to the Zoom presentation. When the clinic starts, click the Zoom link to join.

Topic: Criminal record expunction

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NEW HANOVER COUNTY—New Hanover County residents are eligible for a free expunction clinic.

To register:

  • Call Legal Aid of North Carolina’s toll-free helpline at 1-866-219-5262
  • The helpline is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Space is limited, act fast!

Legal Aid staff will screen callers to ensure they are eligible for the expunction clinic. Callers will be asked to attend an event on October 15, in the New Hanover County courthouse, where they will receive assistance in the expunction process.

Topic: Criminal record expunction

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DURHAM · Feb. 17, 2021—The coding collective that created a powerful tool for streamlining criminal record expunctions for Durham residents has received a high honor. Durham Mayor Stephen M. Schewel proclaimed Feb. 15, 2021, as Code for Durham Day during a city council meeting that evening. 

Code for Durham is a network of volunteers that developed the DEAR Petition Generator, a program that takes data from a person’s criminal record and automatically generates the correct, completed forms necessary for the person to petition the courts for an expunction. 

“This tool reduces a lengthy manual data-entry process down to a few clicks, reducing human error and allowing attorneys to serve more people,” Mayor Schewel’s declaration reads in part. 

Code for Durham developed the software in collaboration with the Durham Expunction and Restoration Program, known as DEAR, a partnership of Durham agencies and organizations—including Legal Aid of North Carolina—that helps Durham residents expunge their criminal records and restore suspended or revoked driver’s licenses. 

During the city council meeting, Code for Durham volunteer Celeste Richie gave brief remarks, which included a reading of the following statement submitted by Gina Reyman, managing attorney of Legal Aid of North Carolina’s Durham office. 

The expunction petition generator tool created by the ​Code for Durham volunteers is ​poised to usher in a new era of expunction legal practice in North Carolina ​by helping attorneys quickly and accurately generate expunction petitions for dismissed charges. During ​initial testing at the DEAR office in Durham, Legal Aid attorneys found that the tool can save hours of time preparing a single petition and significantly reduced the number of data-entry errors. Instead of serving hundreds of clients each year, the tool has the potential to enable Legal Aid and the DEAR Program to serve thousands.  

This innovative tool was made possible by the unique partnership of ​volunteer coders and Legal Aid attorneys, working closely for two years, to integrate the nuances of expunction law into a user-friendly design. The selfless dedication and quiet perseverance of these volunteers was inspiring to witness, and the tool’s features have far surpassed what we as lawyers originally imagined was possible. With the guidance of the Code for Durham team, Legal Aid is currently working to integrate the tool into its case management system. We believe that the tool will dramatically expand the volume and accessibility of expunctions to our low-income clients.  

Aptly named, this tool not only generates petitions to expunge old charges but generates second chance opportunities for thousands of our neighbors in Durham and across North Carolina to get better jobs and have better futures. Special thanks to each member of the Code for Durham team. 

—Gina Reyman, Managing Attorney 
    Legal Aid of North Carolina-Durham office
 

Learn more 

Topic: Criminal record expunction

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Ayana Robinson, Supervising Attorney of our Expunction Team, moderates this discussion about the Second Chance Act, a new state law that greatly expands expunction opportunities for North Carolinians. Joining Ayana are DJ Dore, Supervising Attorney in our Durham office, who focuses on expunction relief and driver’s license restoration, and Daniel Bowes, Director of the NC Justice Center’s Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project.

The discussion focuses on five provisions of the new law:

1. “Raise the Age”
2. Dismissals and acquittals
3. Three categories of expunctions of convictions: Single misdemeanor charges, multiple misdemeanor charges, and single felony convictions
4. Access to expunged files
5. Limited driving privileges

Topic: Criminal record expunction

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In these uncertain times of employment, come find out if there is something that can be done about getting information removed (“expunged”) from your criminal offense record. Watch our criminal record expungement video to learn about eligibility, the expunction process, the most common expunctions, certificates of relief, and a COVID-19 update. Recorded on 4/7/2020.