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Overview of Expungement Law in North Carolina

- For more on this topic click Expungements

This is not legal advice, but merely offered for educational purposes. North Carolina expungement laws are somewhat complicated and hard to navigate. Consult a lawyer about whether you are eligible for an expungement.

Expunction is the process by which you can remove arrests or convictions from your record. Until recently, North Carolina only permitted the expungement of certain crimes, based on age, and whether the person was an adult. In general, until recently, felonies could not be expunged, and criminal convictions of adults could not be expunged.

This made it very difficult for someone to clear a record, even if they made a youthful mistake that resulted in a felony, or in a misdemeanor conviction after the age of 18.

But recent changes have relaxed the requirements for a North Carolina expungement just a bit.

Let’s look at a few of the possibilities for expungement in North Carolina.

  1. Anyone age 16 or older is an “adult” for criminal purposes in North Carolina. However, if the offense date occurred prior to the age of 18 and is a misdemeanor offense, it may be expungeable under NCGS 15A-145 provided it is a first offense.

  2. Anyone may expunge a charge that has been dismissed or where there are findings of not-guilty by a jury or judge. However, a person may only be granted a single expungement in his or her lifetime in North Carolina. If the person has previously enjoyed an expungement in North Carolina, he may not apply for a new North Carolina expungement even if the case is dismissed or expunged. Note that sometimes defendants will give up the right to an expungement in order to enter a deferred prosecution agreement. This usually occurs in Domestic Violence cases, where the person has given up his right to an expungement in order to earn a dismissal. NCGS 15A-146.

  3. Anyone may expunge a non-violent misdemeanor conviction (Class 1 through 3 misdemeanors only) or non-violent felony conviction (Class H and I felonies only). Sex offenses, certain drug offenses, and offenses where violence is an element of the crime (including assaults) are excluded. Multiple offenses can be expunged as part of the single process so long as they were resolved in the same session of court and arise from the same transaction or set of transactions.

If the person was under the age of 18 at the time of the felony offense, the person must wait at least 4 years following the end of the active sentence, probation, or Post-Supervision Release phase. The person must also complete 100 hours of community service.

If the person was over the age of 18 at the time of the felony offense, the person must wait 15 years following the end of the active sentence, probation, or Post-Supervision Release phase.

To be eligible, individuals in either case need to have a clean criminal history from the date of the conviction that is being expunged, meaning no further convictions other than traffic violations. Convictions can be expunged 15 YEARS from conviction date or completion of any sentence, whichever is later.

To receive an expungement following a conviction, individuals must do the following:


  1. File a petition with the court where the person was convicted. If you were convicted in Wake County, you must file in Wake County.

  2. The petitioner must write an affidavit that he/she has been of good moral character since the date of conviction

  3. Affidavits from two people that are not related to the petitioner stating that they know the character and reputation of the individual as being good
    Completion of a form authorizing a background check to search for convictions and outstanding warrants

An affidavit from the petitioner stating that there are no outstanding restitution orders or civil judgments arising from the offense.

Once the petition for expungement has been received by the court, the District Attorney has 30 days within which to file any objections. If no objections are filed, the petition will be approved, allowing convictions to be removed from local and statewide databases. See NCGS 15A-145.4 and NCGS 15A-145.5 for more information on felony expunctions.

Note that the law is somewhat complicated, and having had a prior expungement under certain other provisions of NC law may exclude someone from filing a second petition. In addition, other expunctions may be available in gang-related offenses, and for underage drinking.

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