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Expanded Expungement Opportunities in North Carolina

The General Assembly of North Carolina recently changed expunction laws within the state, broadening the availability of expunction by both reducing waiting periods and allowing expunctions even for people who previously received them. The General Assembly also changed other rules related to expunctions, including modifying the rules for making expunction records available to prosecutors and clarifying the responsibilities of court clerks when record checks are performed.

Understanding the changes to expunction laws is vital, as these changes could affect whether expunction is an option for past convictions and under what circumstances records can be expunged. Welch and Avery provides assistance to many North Carolinians with expunction and we can assist you in determining how these new laws impact you if you are hoping to have your record cleared.

Give us a call to speak with an experienced North Carolina expunction lawyer at our firm to find out more about the changes to the expunction rules made by the General Assembly and to learn how these changes could make it easier to have information about your past involvement with the criminal justice system removed from public records.

How North Carolina Changed the Law to Allow for More Expunctions

The General Assembly of North Carolina changed expunction rules with the passage of Session Law 2017-195. This law reduced the amount of time a person must wait to expunge older misdemeanor and felony convictions.

Under prior rules found in G.S. 15A-145.5, a person could only expunge non-violent misdemeanor or felony convictions from his or her record if at least 15-years had elapsed and if others specific statutory requirements were met. Session Law 2017-195 shortened the waiting period considerably. Those convicted of non-violent misdemeanors can now have their record expunged after five years, while those defendants convicted of non-violent felonies could have a waiting period of just 10 years.

However, while the law amending U.S. 154-145.5(c) sets a five or 10-year waiting period from the date of conviction to expunction, it also indicates a defendant becomes eligible for expunction after the later of the end of the waiting period or the completion of his sentence. Although there is some ambiguity, this likely means that a person who has not yet completed his sentence when the waiting period was completed would need to wait until his sentence was served BUT would not have to wait an additional five to 10 years from the date of the successful completion of his sentence.

Session Law 2017-195 also modified G.S. 15A-146, which previously allowed expunction of dismissals and expunction of charges for which a defendant was acquitted only if no prior expunctions had occurred. The new Session law removes the rule preventing people from obtaining a new expunction because they have an old one. As long as all statutory requirements are met, records can now be expunged for dismissed charges and for charges for which defendants were acquitted, even if a defendant has previously had records expunged.

The amendment also reiterated that a convicted defendant could still have some charges expunged, even after being found guilty. If any charges were dismissed, those dismissed charges could be expunged despite a conviction for other misdemeanor offenses in the same case.

This change was important because under the prior rules, multiple convictions for older offenses could be expunged but that expungement for older convictions would count as a “prior” expungement. The expunction of records on charges for which the defendant had been convicted, because it was a prior expungement, could serve as a bar preventing the defendant from having records expunged related to the dismissed charges. In other words, a defendant could clear his record of charges for which he was found guilty, but not charges that had been dismissed. This odd result no longer occurs now that past expungements don’t prevent additional expungements for dismissed charges or charges on which the defendant was found not guilty.

These changes are the most important to defendants because they allow expungement in situations where it was not an option before, but there were also other changes related to how records are accessed and utilized. Because many of the changes were fairly technical, talking with a lawyer can be the best option to understand your new rights in connection with expungement.

Getting Help from A North Carolina Expunction Lawyer

A North Carolina expunction lawyer at Welch and Avery can assist you in determining you are eligible for expunction so you can clear your record and no longer have to worry about members of your community finding out about your past involvement with the criminal justice system. To find out more about the help we can offer with expunction under the new eligibility rules, give us a call at (910) 405-8459 or contact us online today.

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