Do You Qualify for an Expungement?
Every person ever convicted of a criminal offense has reason to wonder whether they are eligible for an expungement (also referred to as an “expunction”). An expungement is a powerful thing—once it is granted, it is as though that arrest and conviction never occurred, to the point that you may fill out a job application swearing under penalty of perjury that you have never been charged or convicted of those offense(s).
There are a multitude of types of expungements, each with its own list of eligible offenses and disqualifications. These types of expungements in the North Carolina General Statutes include:
S. § 15A-145.5: Allows for the expungement of certain kinds of misdemeanor and felony convictions. Some of the disqualifications for this type of expungement include offenses that have assault included as one of the essential elements and drug felonies that involve heroin, methamphetamines, or the possession with intent to sell and deliver (or the actual sale and delivery) of cocaine.
S. § 15A-145: Covers expungement for first-time offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of conviction.
S. 15A-145.2: Discusses expungement for those below the age of 21 at the time of the commission of certain drug offenses.
In addition, say you were not actually convicted of the offense with which you were charged—whether you were acquitted at trial, the prosecutor dismissed your charges, or you went through a diversion program such as a conditional discharge— you may also be able to expunge the fact that you were ever arrested and charged with such an offense. This situation is covered by G.S 145-146.
North Carolina expungement laws have had some excellent developments in later years, including the shortening of the wait period for felonies (now 10 years) and misdemeanors (now five years). In addition, when North Carolina passed “Raise the Age,” changing the age at which a person is automatically charged as an adult to 18 (previously 16), new provisions sprung up in the expungement statutes to retroactively allow for many previously convicted prior to age 18 have a new shot at expungement. Because each of the many expungement statutes have their own confusing disqualifications, many of which use legal terms of art like “essential element of the offense,” it is important to consult with an attorney who practices in such matters to determine whether you are eligible and handle the expunction process for you.