On July 16, 2012, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue signed a bill into law changing the way the state handles criminal expungements. The new law gives more people an opportunity to clear their records after demonstrating that they have remained law-abiding for a number of years after being convicted of a criminal offense. People in North Carolina should be aware of what a criminal expungement is and how the law changed eligibility for expungements.
Arrest records, criminal charges and criminal convictions are all a matter of public record. Having a record of criminal convictions — or even simply charges — can cause complications for a person in a number of situations, such as applying for a job or seeking financing for a home or other major purchase.
People can request the court to order the records to be sealed through a process called expungement. The expungement erases all records of a person’s arrest, charges or trial.
Expunging More Records
North Carolina is one of the few states in the U.S. that allows people to expunge criminal records. Prior to the new law, only a select few could petition for expungements in North Carolina. Those who had findings of “not guilty” entered in their cases, or if the state dropped the charges, could petition for expungement, as well as some juvenile offenders, first-time drug offenders under age 21 and minors charged with possession of alcohol.
The new law allows all those with non-violent misdemeanor or felony convictions to petition for expungement after 15 years have passed. People seeking expungements must show that they have had no further convictions since the convictions they are trying to expunge, other than traffic violations. The new law does not permit people with convictions for violent crimes to expunge their records.
The expungement process takes between one and six months in North Carolina. People may only petition for expungement one time.
Reasons for Expungement
Supporters of the law say that it gives people an opportunity to show that they have reformed and rewards people who have avoided repeat offenses. In the age of ever-increasingly available information, arrest records, criminal charges and convictions can make it extremely difficult for people to obtain jobs, education and housing after being charged with a crime. People with criminal convictions may also find it more difficult to obtain loans and often must pay higher insurance rates.
Consult an Attorney
A criminal conviction can have lingering effects for a person, long after he or she has paid the debt to society thorough whatever penalties the court imposed. If you are struggling with problems stemming from a criminal record, talk to an experienced expungement attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.