Wilmington NC Lawyer Expungement / Expunction Attorney
Expungement is a legal action in which the plaintiff or petitioner seeks that the court destroys or seals prior criminal convictions from State or Federal official records. Until December 1, 2017, a person could pursue an Expungement only once in their lifetime in the state of North Carolina. However, with the ratification of Senate Bill 445 on July 28, 2017, the accessibility of the expunction process has been drastically improved effective December 1, 2017. Unless one has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges one can get expunged of their record as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. Without an expungement, criminal charges remain on one’s record even when there is no conviction.
Criminal charges eligible for expunction generally fall into five categories: all felony or misdemeanor charges for which there was no conviction (dismissed or a finding of not guilty); misdemeanor charges for which the date of offense occurred before the offender’s 18th birthday (21st birthday for some alcohol offenses); nonviolent convictions for which the offender was released from supervision for more than five years for misdemeanors, or more than ten years for felonies; charges for which the offender has received a Governor’s pardon, and charges which were a result of identity theft (i.e., someone other than the person under whose name the conviction is recorded actually committed the offense).
Often an expungement is erroneously referred to as a pardon. A pardon however does not destroy or seal one’s criminal record, it rather constitutes forgiveness, and a pardon of innocence is granted when one was convicted of a charge which was subsequently dismissed. In such case one may petition the Governor for a declaration of innocence when the individual has been erroneously convicted and imprisoned and later determined to be innocent. Charges for which one has received a pardon of innocence may be expunged, and there appears to be no limit on the number of charges which can be expunged under this provision.
When considering an expungement you should be aware of the fact that criminal records collected by private entities, including but not limited to online news sites, may still show indications of the charges after they are expunged. The reason for that is that those private entities may collect records between the time the criminal charge is issued and the time it is expunged. Therefore it is a good idea to proceed with an expungement as soon as possible to decrease the chance that private companies collect their information which they may keep forever.
The statutes provide for some private entities to remove expunged records from their data bases after an order of expunction is entered. Section § 15A-150 states: a state agency [receiving notice of an expungement shall notify any private entity with which it has a licensing agreement for bulk extracts of data from [a state] agency criminal record database to delete the record in question. Section 15A-152 states that: a private entity that holds itself out as being in the business of compiling and disseminating criminal history record information for compensation shall destroy and shall not disseminate any information in the possession of the entity with respect to which the entity has received a notice to delete the record in question. It also provides for civil liability for failure to do so with a certain time period. Section 15A-153 provides that: Employers, educational institutions, State or Local Government Agencies, Officials, and Employees shall not, in any application, interview, or otherwise, require an applicant for employment or admission to disclose information concerning any arrest, criminal charge, or criminal conviction of the applicant that has been expunged and shall not knowingly and willingly inquire about any arrest, charge, or conviction that they know to have been expunged. An applicant need not, in answer to any question concerning any arrest or criminal charge that has not resulted in a conviction, include a reference to or information concerning arrests, charges, or convictions that have been expunged.
Also, even though expungement statutes prohibit prosecution for perjury for failing to acknowledge the charges which were expunged, it would be untrue to deny the fact that one was charged, even though the statutes apparently intend to allow for one to deny the fact that the arrest, charges, and other criminal proceedings occurred. Even with the protections of the statutes, there are many ways in which information about the expunged criminal proceedings to be discovered, and people should consider the individual circumstances and the exact wording of any questions in applications when deciding exactly how to respond.
Please feel free to contact us at 910-793-9000 to schedule a consultation with us if you would like more information about the possibility of getting an expungement.