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How to Get a Criminal Record Expunged

The laws surrounding expungement vary from state to state, but the actual definition of the word is the same no matter where you go. So, what does expunge mean and how do you know if you're eligible to get a criminal record expunged?

At Van Camp, Meacham & Newman, our criminal defense attorneys know the ins and outs of the expungement process so that we can better help our clients start a new chapter in life. Learn about what expungement is, what factors impact getting an expungement, and how to get a criminal record expunged in North Carolina. Remember that each case is different so it's best to consult a criminal defense attorney.  

Picture of a person wearing handcuffs as they're breaking off for the article about getting a criminal record expunged.

What Does Expunge Mean?

Expungement refers to the act of having a criminal offense erased from state or federal records. This process—sometimes also called expunction—serves as a fresh start for those who have been convicted of crimes in the past, removing it from the public record permanently.

When a person has their criminal record expunged, they are no longer required to disclose that an arrest or conviction of the offense in question ever happened. This can be immensely helpful for those with a criminal record who otherwise may have trouble finding a job or adequate housing—they can claim that they have never been charged or convicted of the offense without worrying about committing perjury.

In the eyes of the law, an expunged conviction never happened. 

Getting a Criminal Record Expunged in North Carolina

A record can be expunged in North Carolina, though the exact eligibility for an expungement depends on the circumstances of the conviction, the number of convictions, and the nature of the crime itself. It's worth speaking to a criminal defense lawyer to learn whether you are eligible to have your criminal record expunged. For those who are eligible, this can be life-changing.

Our criminal defense lawyers understand the impact this can have on someone's life. That's why our law firm holds expunction events in Moore County and other parts of North Carolina for residents who may be eligible. Speak to one of our criminal defense attorneys to learn about expunction eligibility and whether we can work together to get your criminal record expunged.

Factors That Determine Eligibility for Expungement 

So, who exactly can get a criminal record expunged in North Carolina? There are a few guidelines that clarify it a bit. You may be eligible for expungement in North Carolina if:

  • Your charges were dismissed
  • You were found not guilty 
  • You were convicted of a class H or I felony when you were 16 or 17, though this does not include traffic offenses or sexual battery. 
  • You have been convicted of one “nonviolent” misdemeanor, you have completed your sentence, and at least five years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. 
  • You have been convicted of multiple “nonviolent” misdemeanors, have completed your sentence, and at least seven years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. 
  • You have been convicted of one “nonviolent” felony, have completed your sentence, and at least 10 years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. 
  • You have been convicted of two or three “nonviolent” felonies, have completed your sentence, and at least 20 years have passed since the end of your sentence or probation. 

In some cases, multiple charges or convictions may be expunged at once, depending on the conviction itself. The best way to know which charges or convictions are able to be removed is with the help of an expungement lawyer of a criminal defense attorney.

Expunging Vs. Sealing 

Those looking for a way to ensure that their criminal records are not accessible to the public may be considering sealing a record rather than expunging. What exactly is the difference? 

While sealing a record will make it impossible for the public to access the record, it still technically exists. That means that they can still be used in the context of the criminal justice system and may be factored in by courts if you receive subsequent charges. They can still sometimes be accessed by certain government agencies, or by other agencies if they petition a court for access and are granted permission. 

When you have your record expunged, though, the offense in question is treated as if it never happened. It serves as a blank slate for those who are granted an expungement. 

The Expungement Process

The process of filing for expungement varies depending on the location in which the offense occurred, and the statute it falls under. Because of the complicated legal process, it’s recommended that those looking to have their record expunged consult with an experienced expungement attorney. 

In general, the expungement process follows a few standard steps. 

Filing for Expungement

If you are working with an expungement attorney, they will be able to find and file the necessary forms for each type of expungement. They will also be able to gather any additional documents and file them with the proper office to make sure the process moves as quickly as possible. 

If you are not working with an attorney, you can find the necessary forms online, and file them with the clerk of court in the county where you were convicted or charged. 

Because there are some additional steps that may be taken for expunging certain offenses, you may also have to obtain a judge’s signature, complete a record check, or schedule a hearing. Again, an attorney can guide you through the process to be sure you are doing everything by the book. 

Paying for Expungement

Usually, a petition for expungement will cost a $175 filing fee. You may also be able to avoid paying the fee by filing this form, or talking with your criminal defense attorney. 

How Long Does Expungement Take 

The time it takes for an expungement to be completed depends on the statute the expungement falls under, the time required to gather and file additional documents, and whether or not a hearing needs to be scheduled or held. Typically, though, the entire process takes between nine and 12 months. 

What an Expungement Doesn’t Cover

An expungement can represent a totally fresh start for those with a record who have found themselves held back by their past. It can open doors for better, more affordable housing, more stable and fulfilling jobs, and even give the individual a sense of control that can help them charge forward with less stress and build the life they’ve dreamed of. 

It can’t, however, perform miracles. It cannot erase the incident from public memory or the press. 

What Is an Expungement Attorney 

While it is possible to go through the process of having a record expunged without the help of an attorney, there are many advantages to working with a criminal defense attorney in order to get a criminal record expunged. 

Understanding Expungement Qualifications 

There are dozens of statutes to sort through that dictate how, when, and what to do to have each kind of offense expunged. Each one may have very different eligibility requirements, exceptions, and steps that need to be taken. 

An experienced attorney can help you sort through the confusing language, pages of documents, and overwhelming system so that you can get your record erased quickly and with minimal stress. 

Procuring Records

In some cases, an office will need to see documentation to prove you qualify for expungement. The required documents may be difficult to obtain, and buried beneath mountains of red tape. An attorney may have the connections and knowledge of the system to get those documents quickly. 

Advocate for You at a Hearing 

While in some cases the process of filing for an expungement is straightforward and simple, there are plenty of instances that are more complex. In the event that you have to go in front of a judge at a hearing, an attorney will be able to explain and argue for your case.

Advocate for You with Other Parties 

In some cases, an expungement might be contested by another party. In those cases, you will not only be dealing with making your case to the court, but making an argument against those who are attempting to block your expungement. 

An attorney can help you formulate arguments and build a case for yourself, and represent you in the proceedings. 

An Attorney is More Efficient 

Understanding eligibility requirements, finding the right forms to file, communicating with the proper officials, digging up old documents, attending hearings, and more can all be time-consuming, stressful, and overwhelming when you go it alone. In some cases, it’s even enough to discourage someone from going forward with their petition to expunge their record altogether. 

While hiring an expungement attorney will cost a bit more upfront, the amount of time, stress, and money that you save when you work with an expert is worth it for most. 

Schedule a Consultation with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Raleigh

Successful expungement of a criminal record can be a life-changing event for those who are struggling to move forward from their past. To make the process as simple and stress-free as possible, and to ensure you are doing everything by the book, a criminal defense attorney is on your side. 

At Van Camp, Meacham & Newman law firm, our criminal defense attorneys are available for free 30-minute legal consultations. In these meetings, we go over the type of offense you are attempting to expunge, the eligibility requirements you must meet, the process of filing for an expungement, and the amount of time it may take. Meeting with an expungement lawyer for a free consultation is the most efficient and affordable way to get the process started. 

If you decide that our attorneys are a good match for you, we can take on your case and begin the process of having your record expunged. Schedule a consultation with us by contacting our firm online, or calling us locally at  910-295-2525.

Disclaimer: The information seen on this website, including the article above, is not legal advice or legal counsel. If you wish to speak to a criminal defense lawyer that serves RaleighFayettevillePinehurstSanford, and beyond, contact our North Carolina attorneys directly using our online form or by calling  910-295-2525.

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