Expunctions and Expungements: How to Keep Your Record Clean

In 2017, the North Carolina state legislature expanded the availability of expunctions for those convicted of crimes and those who had their charges dismissed. This post focuses on how to obtain an expunction if your charge was dismissed.

Some people may be surprised to know that even if your charge was dismissed in Court, the fact that you were charged in the first place remains on your criminal record unless you petition the court for an expunction. An expunction and an expungement are the same thing; both words mean “to erase.”

In the context of criminal records, an expunction means to physically erase all information pertaining to an arrest and criminal charge from nearly all State-maintained files and computers.[1] An expunction will delete the fact that the charge ever existed from files maintained by the North Carolina courts, state and local law enforcement agencies, the Division of Motor Vehicles, and the State Bureau of Investigation. Private businesses that keep criminal record information, such as online companies providing background checks, are also required to delete criminal record data once notified by the North Carolina court system. For those understandably concerned about how a prior charge will appear to a potential employer on a background check, pursuing an expunction is well worth your time and effort.

So, how do you receive an expunction after your charge has been dismissed? You must meet the requirements of N.C.G.S. § 15A-146. That statute is lengthy but basically entitles you to an expunction if:

  1. The charge was dismissed or you were found not guilty;
  2. You have not been convicted of a felony;
  3. You correctly complete and file the Petition of Expunction with the Clerk of Superior Court in the county where you were charged; and,
  4. The Court grants your petition at a hearing.

While the Petition does not require a law degree to complete, if you want to be sure you are completing the right form and filling it out correctly, you may want to consult an attorney. An attorney can also help you schedule a hearing on the petition before a judge. Furthermore, for those who aren’t represented, the thought of standing in a courtroom before a judge can cause some apprehension.

If you want some guidance through the expunction or expungement process in Boone, North Carolina, or the surrounding area, please contact Matt Rupp at (828) 265-0016 or matt@robanglelaw.com.

[1] A few government agencies retain criminal records even after an expunction is granted. They are the local prosecutor’s office, North Carolina appellate courts, and the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts which maintains a confidential file of expunctions that have been granted.