In a previous post, “A Clean Slate,” we discussed expunction laws in N.C. and some of the most common instances in which people may have the opportunity to get prior criminal charges and/or convictions expunged from their record. Since that post, the General Assembly in S.L. 2017-195 has made positive amendments to the North Carolina expunction laws that reduce waiting periods and allow for expunctions when they have been previously barred.

The most crucial expunction laws amendment made by the General Assembly reduces waiting periods for expunctions of non-violent misdemeanors and felonies. Before the changes, G.S. 15A-145.5 required someone convicted of a non-violent misdemeanor or non-violent felony to wait 15 years before being allowed to apply to have these charges expunged from their record. Starting December 1, 2017, the waiting period for a non-violent misdemeanor conviction is five years, and the waiting period for a non-violent felony has been reduced to 10 years.

Even though December 1, 2017, is the earliest date the petition for expunction can be filed for the new waiting periods, convictions before this date can still be expunged under the recent waiting periods. Keep in mind that these waiting periods only apply to G.S. 15A-145.5, and there are other circumstances, such as certain drug offenses and the age of the offender, that may have shorter waiting periods.

Another amendment to S.L. 2017-195 lifts the previous limit on expunctions of dismissed charges. Under G.S. 15A-146, the old rule was that charges not resulting in convictions could be expunged, but only if you have not already received a prior expunction of another charge or conviction.

For example, assume someone was charged with misdemeanor trespassing and misdemeanor larceny. According to a plea agreement, the State dismissed the trespassing charge, and the defendant pled guilty to the larceny charge. After the proper waiting period, the defendant had the larceny conviction expunged from their record. Most people do not realize that even though the larceny conviction is expunged, the dismissed charge of misdemeanor trespass still exists on their record. Under the old rule of G.S. 15A-146, they would not be entitled to erase the dismissed trespass charge because they have already had a prior expunction. The new law under G.S. 15A-146 allows for the dismissed charge of trespass to be expunged even though they have already had the larceny conviction expunged. The new amendment removes this prior expunction bar. Now, a criminal charge that results in a dismissal or not guilty can be expunged regardless of whether you have ever had another charge or conviction expunged. Despite these charges, you cannot get a charge that did not result in a conviction expunged if you have a prior felony conviction.

The reduction in waiting times to apply for expunctions is a positive step in allowing those who have made a mistake in the past to move on with their lives and seek employment and educational opportunities without a prior conviction holding them back. Also, eliminating the number of expunctions you are entitled to for charges that did not result in a sentence is another positive step. It would be unfair to those wrongly accused or found not guilty to be punished for being charged with a crime that they were acquitted of. If you have a prior charge or conviction and want that stain removed from your record, please contact us today. The attorneys and staff at Ludlum Law Firm are dedicated to keeping up with current changes to N.C. law to provide our clients the most competent and professional representation they deserve.