Can I Qualify For An Expungement?
in north carolina
DO YOU QUALIFY FOR AN EXPUNGEMENT / EXPUNCTION?
Determining whether you are in fact eligible for any type of expungement (also called “expunction”) is ninety nine percent of the battle when you are dealing with North Carolina expungement laws. The expungement laws in this state are ever-evolving with fairly significant changes that have occurred in recent years. Some are explained below, but keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether you are eligible or not. There are many, many different types of expungements that apply in a wide variety of situations depending on your age at the time of the offense and time of conviction, the offense(s) involved, and the ultimate outcome of the case. Whether you think you know your eligibility after reading the below or any other source on the internet, remember that the only way to absolutely determine if you are eligible is to consult with an attorney experienced in handling expungement in North Carolina. The criminal defense attorneys at PRJ Law have robust experience in handling expunctions and are passionate about leaving no stone unturned in helping individuals put the past behind them whenever legally possible.
SENATE BILL 445
SESSION LAW 2017-195/SENATE BILL 445
In December of 2017, North Carolina Session Law 2017-195 (previously Senate Bill 445) went into effect after being signed by Governor Roy Cooper. This new state law opened up the opportunity for many people to get an expungement in North Carolina.
Most people do not know that if you are charged with a criminal offense and the charge is later dismissed by the state or court or you are found not guilty, the fact that you were charged with that offense will still show up on your criminal record. Under the 2017 law, you can now expunge that charge even if you had previously received another expungement.
S.L. 2017-195 also reduced the length of time eligible individuals need to wait after conviction before they are eligible for expungement. The wait period for eligible, nonviolent misdemeanors is now five years (down from 15 years); for eligible nonviolent felonies, the waiting period is now 10 years (down from 15 years).
The 2017 law had its drawbacks, however. If you were later convicted of another offense, it also gave prosecutors the right to get a copy of your prior expungement from the Administrative Office of the Courts and use it towards the calculation of your criminal history.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM
NORTH CAROLINA’S 2020 SECOND CHANCE ACT
Also known as Session Law 2020-35, the Second Chance Act is largely in response to North Carolina’s 2019 Raise the Age Act, which made it so that 16 and 17 year old individuals who were charged with nonviolent offenses were no longer automatically charged in adult court. The Second Chance Act provided more expunction relief for people convicted in adult court as juveniles of misdemeanors and certain low-level felonies and expanded the ability to expunge older nonviolent convictions.
The act also provides for the automatic expungement of non-conviction records for anyone (i.e., if the state or court dismisses the charge or you are found not guilty), beginning at the end of 2021. This does not apply for charges that are dismissed pursuant to a plea agreement.
The Second Chance Act made many other changes to existing laws too numerous to list here (again, contact one of our attorneys to determine for sure if you are eligible), but among those changes was the ability to receive an expungement even if you had a previous conviction—but only in certain circumstances.
TYPES OF EXPUNGEMENTS
There are also specific laws that cover the expungement of certain gang offenses, low-level drug offenses and certain toxic vapors offenses for first offenders depending on their age at the time of offense; expungement for prostitution convictions in certain situations; expungement for human trafficking victims convicted of certain offenses; and expungement of records if you are found not guilty or have charges dismissed as a result of your being a victim of mistaken identity or identity theft.
Again, it is extremely important to explain your unique circumstances to an expungement attorney and receive a consultation on your particular matter to know for certain if you are eligible for expungement or not. Contact the offices of PRJ Law today to speak to one of our experienced attorneys to receive this analysis tailored to your situation.