This post was updated June 13, 2019.
In 2017, Gov. Roy Cooper signed the North Carolina expungement law that made it easier for people to have their criminal record expunged if they have been convicted of and served time for nonviolent crimes and have proven they can stay out of trouble with the law.
Criminal records eligible for expungement in North Carolina are generally limited to three categories:
- A first-time, nonviolent offense committed more than 15 years ago
- A first-time offense committed under age 18/22
- A charge that was dismissed or disposed “not guilty”
Expungement is a process that essentially seals or “erases” the conviction from public record. When an arrest or criminal conviction is expunged from a person’s record, they no longer have to disclose that information on an application for a job, apartment, or higher education.
Starting December 1, 2017, the new expungement law:
- Reduced the wait time for the expungement of a first-time nonviolent felony from 15 years to 10 years
- Reduced the wait time for the expungement of a first-time nonviolent misdemeanor from 15 years to 5 years
- Provided for the expungement of all dismissed and not guilty charges if the person has not been convicted of a felony
- Provided NC prosecutors electronic access to records expunged on or after December 1, 2017
- Allowed the State to treat a conviction expunged on or after December 1, 2017, as a prior record if the person re-offends.
Expungement vs Dismissal
In North Carolina, expungement and dismissal of charges are not the same thing. A dismissed charge will remain on your record indefinitely, and anyone running a background check on your criminal record will be able to see the charge. Usually, a dismissed charge on your record will say “dismissal without leave,” meaning your case has been dismissed and the State cannot reopen it for further litigation.
As soon as your charge has been dismissed, you are eligible to have it expunged. However, whether or not the charge will be expunged depends on the severity of the crime. As stated above, the new expungement law only makes it easier for nonviolent crimes to be sealed.
If you have been charged with a crime or DWI in North Carolina, you need the best team possible on your side. Contact our team of experienced criminal defense and DWI attorneys as soon as possible to set up your consultation.