What is an Expunction?
Many people have questions about what it means to get an expunction. Will it erase my charge completely? Will it take my mug shot offline? Will a background check still show that I was charged with this? The reality is that an expunction may be a wonderful tool to help clear up your background, but it may not be the perfect eraser that many people want it to be.
An expunction is a legal remedy to take certain charges or convictions off of your criminal record. For example, under the new N.C.G.S. 15A-146, as long as you do not have a felony conviction on your record, you can expunge any dismissed charge or charge for which you were found not guilty. Under N.C.G.S. 15A-145.5, you may be able to expunge a misdemeanor conviction from 5 years ago or certain nonviolent felony convictions from 10 years ago.
But what does it mean to expunge charges off of your record? When an expunction is submitted, it is processed by the State Bureau of Investigations and the Administrative Office of the Courts. It is then sent back to the county where the charge originated and distributed to the law enforcement agencies listed on the petition. This is in large part the reason why an expunction generally takes 6 to 8 months to complete.
Once an expunction petition is successfully processed and approved by a judge, it is then removed from your state criminal record. This means that a conventional background check performed during most job interview applications will not reveal that you were even charged with the expunged case, because that case is no longer a part of the public record. Background check services generally collect their information from collections of public records, and now that your case has been removed, the background check will come back without revealing your prior charge. This is in large portion why many petitioners seek an expunction in the first place- they want to make sure that their past does not hamper their ability to seek gainful employment in the future. An expunction is a great tool to do just that.
However, many petitioners are disappointed to learn that search engines like Google may still be able to direct searchers to remnants of the erased public record in the form of public mug shots. When you are arrested and have your mug shot taken, that photo is a part of the public record of your arrest. As such, websites that post mug shots are within their legal rights to post the photo to their public domain and make it accessible on the Internet. When your case is expunged that photo is no longer a part of the public record as it has been erased from your record, but those websites are under no legal obligation to take your mug shot down. Instead, many of those websites make their revenue by only taking a mug shot down when someone is willing to pay a fee to have it removed.
An expunction is a great way to clean up your legal background and pave the way for more successful background checks and job interviews moving forward. However, it’s important to know that an expunction may not necessarily remove all traces of your charge from the Internet or other non-official sources. Call the Criminal Defense Team at Hatch, Little & Bunn today to explore your expunction options and see what we can do to help you clean your past so that you can focus on your future.