Are you Eligible for an Expunction? And another? And another?

As of December 1, 2017, the expunction laws of North Carolina are expanding. Under the new expunction guidelines, you may be eligible for expunction relief for which you may not have been previously eligible. You may have the opportunity to expunge more charges than you were previously able to, or you may be able to expunge your record sooner than under the old law.

Dismissals or Findings of Not Guilty

One of the most important changes in the law is that petitioners will now be able to expunge more cases that have been dismissed or for which there was a finding of not guilty. Under the old law, a person could only expunge such charges one time and all included charges had to be within a twelve year period or else they would remain on the record permanently. This created a very difficult choice for petitioners, as they had to choose whether to expunge their old 18-year-old drinking ticket or save their expunction in case they needed it in the future. Also consider the case where a petitioner is charged with a crime such as assault by someone who goes in front of a magistrate and swears out the charges on their word alone and with no other proof. Upon that case being dismissed and expunged, the petitioner has would have no further relief under the old law and as such the assault charge would remain on their record permanently.

Under the new law, a person may have unlimited expunctions of dismissed charges and charges for which there is a finding of not guilty. Under both scenarios above, a petitioner could find relief under the revised law. A petitioner could expunge their old drinking ticket and could later still expunge a charge sworn out against them with no factual basis, allowing the petitioner to maintain a clean record despite the charges occurring several years apart. The most important changes in the new law are that now petitioners can expunge charges that did not occur within a twelve-month period, and can expunge charges that were dismissed or for which there is a finding of not guilty even if they have had a prior expunction.

Waiting Periods Shortened

Another important change in the law is that petitioners will now be able to seek expunction relief sooner for old convictions. Under the old law, a nonviolent misdemeanor or felony conviction could not be expunged for 15 years from the date of conviction or the date when any probationary sentence ended. This created a very stressful waiting period for petitioners. Take for example the 35-year-old job seeker who is being denied a position because of something she did when she was 20 years old. The legislature saw the injustice in this extended waiting period and has corrected it with this new law.

Under the new law, a nonviolent misdemeanor conviction can be expunged as soon as five years from the date of conviction. Similarly, a nonviolent felony conviction can be expunged as soon as 10 years from the date of conviction. This allows petitioners to more quickly turn their lives around and have a fresh start. Instead of the long and laborious waiting period under the old law, petitioners may now seek relief much earlier and move on with their lives without fear of their pasts.

The new law has expanded expunction opportunities for petitioners in North Carolina. Under the new law, you may be eligible for relief for which you were previously denied or you may be eligible for relief much sooner than you were previously advised. Contact the Criminal Litigation Team of Hatch, Little & Bunn today and see if you are eligible to have your past wiped clean so you can move out of your past and into your future.

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