Expungement is a legal action in which the petitioner or plaintiff seeks that the court seals or destroys prior criminal convictions from State or Federal official records. Until December 1, 2017, a person could pursue an Expunction 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 an individual has a felony conviction on their record, there is no limit on how many charges that individual can get expunged off 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.
At this time, expunctions are taking anywhere from about six months to one year. However, the expected time frame for an expunction may be affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic.
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.
Chapter 15A of the North Carolina General Statutes (N.C.G.S.) provides for some private entities to remove expunged records from their data bases after an order of expunction is entered. N.C.G.S. §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. N.C.G.S. §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. N.C.G.S. §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 an individual 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 matter can be discovered, and people should consider the individual circumstances and the exact wording of any questions in applications when deciding exactly how to respond.
Mr. Collins has been handling scores of expunctions for over 20 years in New Hanover County, Pender County, and Brunswick County. If you are interested in having your record expunged, please give our office a call at (910) 793-9000 for a confidential consultation to discuss your eligibility.
By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal