Expunging or Sealing Adult Criminal Records in North Carolina

In North Carolina, expunction can erase your criminal record under certain circumstances. But not all records can be expunged.

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.

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 previously been convicted of a felony. (N.C. General Statutes § 15A-146 (2018).)

Identity theft or mistaken identity. If charges were brought against you as a result of mistaken identity or 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.

(N.C. General Statutes § 15A-147 (2018).)

If You Were Convicted of a Crime

Nonviolent misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies. If you have met all the conditions and court orders pertaining to your sentence, you must wait five years to ask to have a nonviolent misdemeanor conviction expunged and ten years to have a nonviolent felony conviction expunged. You may not have had any other misdemeanor or felony convictions, other than a traffic violation. Convictions for certain offenses cannot be expunged, including:

  • Class A1 misdemeanors
  • Class A through G felonies
  • offenses involving assault as an essential element
  • offenses that require you to register as a sex offender, and
  • felonies in which a commercial vehicle was used to commit the crime.

For the full list of convictions that are ineligible for expungement, see North Carolina General Statutes § 15A-145.5.

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 12 months or 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. (N.C. General Statutes §§ 15A-145, 15A-145.2, 15A-145.3, 90-96, 90-113.14 (2018).)

Prostitution offenses. If you were arrested for or convicted of a prostitution offense, you may apply to have the criminal record expunged if you have never been convicted of a violent felony or violent misdemeanor and if:

  • your conviction was a result of having been a victim of human trafficking or sexual servitude
  • you have no prior convictions for prostitution and three years have passed since your last conviction or completion of any sentence, whichever occurred later, or
  • your case resulted in a discharge and dismissal of the proceedings against you.

(N.C. General Statutes §§ 14-204, 15A-145.6 (2018).)

DNA evidence. If you were convicted of a crime but your conviction was later reversed or dismissed or you receive a pardon of innocence, the related DNA evidence may be expunged from the state DNA database. (N.C. General Statutes § 15A-148 (2018).)

Offenses for which you were pardoned. If you received a pardon of innocence, you may apply to have the related criminal record expunged. (N.C. General Statutes § 15A-149 (2018).)

Getting Legal Help

Cleaning up your criminal history can be complicated, and laws can change at any time. 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.

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