In North Carolina, your criminal record may be expunged -- that is, erased or sealed --under the circumstances described below. When your record is expunged, all official sources are purged, except for a confidential file to which judges may sometimes have access. In most cases, after your record is expunged, you may say that you were not arrested or convicted of a crime.
North Carolina allows only one criminal record expungement in a lifetime, so carefully consider whether or not to apply.
If You Were Not Convicted of a Crime
If charges were dismissed or you were found not guilty. Your arrest record may qualify for expungement. However, expungement is not allowed if:
- you have a previously expunged record (as noted above, North Carolina permits you to expunge only one criminal record in your lifetime)
- you were previously convicted of a misdemeanor or felony
- there are criminal charges pending against you, or
- the offense with which you were charge is a motor vehicle violation.
(North Carolina General Statutes § 15A-146.)
If your identity was stolen. If charges were brought against you as a result of someone stealing your identity and using your name, you can petition to have the record expunged if the charges were dismissed, there was a finding of not guilty, or the related conviction was set aside. (North Carolina General Statutes § 15A-147.)
If You Were Convicted of a Crime
Misdemeanors involving alcohol or drugs, if you were a first offender and under the age of 21 at the time of the offense. There are a number of circumstances under which alcohol, drug, or toxic vapors offenses can be expunged in North Carolina, if you were under the age of 21 when you were arrested. In some cases, you must wait two years before applying for expungement. In others, you may apply as soon as you complete probation or the proceedings against you are otherwise dismissed. To learn whether your record qualifies for expungement, and when you can file, carefully read the North Carolina laws or consult a qualified criminal defense attorney. (North Carolina General Statutes §§ 15A-145, 15A-145.2, 15A-145.3, 90-96, 90-113.14.)
DNA evidence. If you were convicted of a crime but your conviction was later reversed or dismissed, the related DNA evidence may be expunged from the state DNA database. (North Carolina General Statutes § 15A-148.)
Offenses for which you were pardoned. If you received a pardon of innocence, you may apply to have the related criminal record expunged. (North Carolina General Statutes § 15A-149.)
Getting Legal Help
Cleaning up your criminal history can be complicated. If you are not sure whether your record qualifies for expungement in North Carolina -- or for advice about your personal situation -- you should contact a qualified criminal law attorney. A good lawyer can guide you each step of the way.