Changes to North Carolina Expunction – December 2017
Around the end of last year (December 2017), we experienced some exciting new changes in the North Carolina laws governing expunctions. These new laws have made expunctions more obtainable by more people. These laws have drastically reduced the wait time for conviction-based expunctions and have eliminated the one-expunction cap on dismissal-based expunctions. Let’s take a closer look at these changes to North Carolina expunction law.
Convictions for non-violent misdemeanors and felonies – wait time reduced
You can receive an expunction (once in a lifetime) for certain convictions. These include most non-violent misdemeanors and certain non-violent low-level felonies. Note that this specifically excludes DWI. You cannot get an expunction for a DWI conviction in NC. However, you can get one if the DWI was dismissed. None of the foregoing information has not changed. What has changed about conviction-based expunctions in NC is that the wait time has been drastically reduced.
- Misdemeanor convictions wait period reduced from 15 years to 5 years
- Felony convictions wait period reduced from 15 years to 10 years
Expunctions for charges that have been dismissed – now unlimited
Previously, you were only allowed one of these expunctions per lifetime. Now, however, there is no limit on the number of expunctions that you can get for dismissals.
This is great news because the standard for being arrested/charged is merely probable cause which is an incredibly low standard. A charge is drastically different from a conviction. Not only that, but many arrests are the result of police acting illegally (in violation of the Constitution of the United States of America). As we have discussed in a previous blog, the main remedy for dealing with such constitutional violations is that the illegally obtained evidence can be suppressed at trial (click here to read our blog on illegally obtained evidence). Thus, apart from lengthy, expensive, difficult, and oftentimes-unsuccessful civil litigation, there was no true way to rectify an unlawful arrest. It would remain on a person’s record forever if that person had already received an expunction. As such, many people were suffering lifelong consequences in situations for which they were unjustly put in.
While this new law is a stride toward offering greater protections for residents of this state, it came at a cost. Let’s look at the final big change in North Carolina expunction.
Prosecutors and law enforcement officers will have access to expunged records
Previously, once someone received an expunction, all trace of the charge, arrest, court proceedings, prison stay, etc. was erased from the system. Meaning, no government agency would be able to uncover information regarding the expunged charge. It would be like it never happened. (Of course, this does not include any records recorded and/or published by third-parties, such as social media outlets, news stories, or websites/newspapers that post mugshots.)
Now, however, there will be governmental access to expunged records. It will be limited to prosecutors and law enforcement officers. Note that a prosecutor will not be able to inquire about someone’s expunged record in trial. However, their knowledge of someone’s expunged record could affect certain aspects of the prosecution, such as what plea offers the prosecutor is willing to extend.
We hope you found this article informative and enjoyed reading about some of these exciting new changes to North Carolina expunction. If you are in need of an expunction or have been charged with a crime in North Carolina or South Carolina, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.