Expungements for Low Level North Carolina Felonies

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The North Carolina General Assembly has passed a measure – now headed to Governor Perdue’s desk – that would allow certain individuals to apply for and be granted expungements in cases where they may have received a low level felony earlier in their lives.

The new expungement bill, if signed into law, will allow individuals convicted of a single Class H or Class I felony – Felony Larceny, Felony PWISD, Felony Possession of Cocaine, Felony Embezzlement (under $100,000) among other North Carolina crimes – to petition a court for an expungement after 15 years have passed since the end of any imposed sentence and upon a showing of good character.

I would expect, assuming the law goes into effect at the end of 2012, that there will be a large number of people applying.

Note that this law does not apply to cases involving multiple felony convictions, or even felony convictions followed by misdemeanor convictions. A court will also need proof of your good character, so even if you’ve never been convicted again of a crime, a person who has been subsequently charged may find it hard to convince a judge to permit an expungement.

A bill was signed into law last year that allowed non-violent offenders who were under the age of 18 at the time of the crime to apply for an expungement. That was a good first step.

Also enacted last year was something called a Certificate of Relief. The Certificate of Relief – N.C.G.S. 15A-173.1 – allows people convicted of a Class G, Class H, or Class I felony to apply for a special determination that relieves them of certain kinds of “collateral” sanctions imposed as a consequence of the felony conviction.

A collateral sanction is a sanction that is imposed not by virtue of the criminal judgment, but by some other legislative requirement. The most common kind of collateral sanction is a licensing sanction that forbids someone to work in a certain field after the person has been convicted of a felony. Talk to a Raleigh criminal attorney about whether you are eligible for a Certificate of Relief, or whether the Certificate of Relief will help you do what you want to do with your life. Certain collateral consequences, including immigration consequences, are not resolved by a Certificate of Relief.

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