Finally, North Carolina makes cleaning a criminal record a little more fair. Many good people have made mistakes in their youth. In December 2017, significant changes take effect in the laws allowing expungements for first-time criminal convictions, and for criminal charges that were either dismissed or adjudicated as not guilty.


For convictions, the waiting time for solitary criminal convictions has changed. For non-violent felony and misdemeanor convictions, the waiting time has been reduced significantly. For felonies, the waiting time has been reduced from 15 years to 10 years. For non-violent misdemeanors, the waiting time has been reduced from 15 years to 5 years.

This time is measured from the end of any active sentence or probation for both felony and misdemeanor convictions. The conviction has to be the only conviction in the United States outside of traffic offenses.

For Dismissed Charges / Charges of Not Guilty

For dismissed charges or charges found not guilty, the old rule only allowed for one expungement petition for dismissed or not guilty charges. Multiple charges were able to be removed but they all had to originate or be disposed of within the same year. The new law will allow for the entry of multiple petitions to expunge dismissed charges. Each petition still has to list charges that originated or were disposed in the same year, but there will not be a limit to the number of petitions entered.


Limitations are present depending on what kind of convictions can be expunged. The conviction cannot be for any of the following; any class A-G felony or a class A1 misdemeanor, any conviction that has an assault as an element, an offense that requires sex offender registration, stalking offenses, any offense involving possession of methamphetamine or heroin or the possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine, specified hate crimes, any felony offense where a commercial motor vehicle was used, certain breaking and entering charges, driving while impaired, and any “attempt” to commit any of the prohibited charges. ***

*** The listed limitations are for the general conviction expunction statute NCGS 15A-145.5, there are other expunction statutes for people who were under the age of 18 or under 22 at the commission of certain drug offenses. Your case may fit into another statute, contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.

Window of Opportunity

December 2017 marks a huge change in the law allowing for the expunction of solitary, non violent felony and misdemeanor convictions. Prior to the change, the waiting period to have a conviction expunged was 15 years for a felony or misdemeanor. The new law shortens the waiting time for felonies to 10 years and misdemeanors to 5 years. The time starts to run from the end of any active jail time or probation. This is a huge step forward for North Carolina. But there is a catch.

The current law completely erases the charge, but the courts or the District Attorney can see that a charge was expunged if they petition the state SBI. That rarely happens because the SBI is slow to respond and DA’s have a large caseload. As of December 2017 the Clerk of Court will begin keeping track of expunged charges. The courts, the police and the district attorneys will be able to see if an expungement was granted and use the expunged case to calculate prior record level. In my mind, expungement means forgiven and being able to look back like that is inconsistent with forgiveness. It should keep the old charge out of the eyes of a potential employer but the fact that there will be a database accessible to the clerks opens up the potential for abuse.

The new expungement law goes into effect on 12/01/2017 and it says specifically that the records will be made available to prosecutors “if the record was expunged on or after July 1st 2018.” Given that an expungement currently takes 5 to 6 months to process, if an expungement petition was entered at the beginning of December it could potentially be completed before the July 1st deadline and stay off of the District Attorney’s radar.

Ask us about your expungement

If you’re looking for assistance with getting your record expunged in North Carolina, call us today at one of our five locations in North Carolina or send us a message through the contact form below!

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